St. Francis in Ecstasy
|Type||Oil on panel|
|Dimensions||124 cm × 142 cm (49 in × 56 in)|
|Location||Frick Collection, New York|
The Ecstasy of St. Francis (or St. Francis in the Desert) is a painting by the Italian Renaissance master Giovanni Bellini, who started this painting in 1475 and finished it around 1480. It is now housed in the Frick Collection in New York City, displayed prominently in what was Henry Clay Frick's living room. This painting is oil on panel, which recalls Mantegna. Still in very good condition, though it has been cut down, it has otherwise apparently been well-cared for since its creation.
The work is signed IOANNES BELLINUS on a small rumpled carta visible in the lower left corner.
It portrays St. Francis of Assisi in ecstasy whether receiving the stigmata, as Millard Meiss suggested, or, as the saint's mouth is open and his face lifted to the sky, perhaps singing his Canticle of the Sun, as Richard Turner has argued. The representation is a fresh one; it corresponds to no specific legend of the saint's life known to be circulating in the fifteenth century, nor does it follow any of the established iconographic motifs.
In the left middle-ground is an immobile donkey which can be interpreted as a symbol of humility and patience, but also of laziness, stupidity or obstinacy. In the lower right corner, on a rustic reading table, is a skull, representing mortality, welcomed in the last stanza of the saint's Canticle. The cave may relate Francis to Jerome. The stream in the left middle-ground symbolizes Moses and the great spring, while the barren tree in the center of the painting represents the burning bush; the saint has left his wooden pattens behind and stands barefoot like Moses. In the distance rises the still-empty Heavenly Jerusalem. The overall composition is also thought to be a meditation of St. Francis on the creation of the world as stated in the book of Genesis.
|The Frick Collection's Colin Bailey on Giovanni Bellini's St. Francis in the Desert, Frick Collection|
|Bellini's St. Francis, Smarthistory|
- A similar suggestion is made by Anthony F. Janson, "The meaning of the landscape in Bellini's St. Francis in Ecstasy", Artibus et Historiae (1994:40ff); he suggests that the landscape is redolent of the Heavenly Jerusalem.
- Horst Woldemar Janson, Anthony F. Janson, History of art: the Western tradition "Giovanni Bellini".
- "The Frick Collection's Colin Bailey on Giovanni Bellini's St. Francis in the Desert". Frick Collection. 2010. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- "Bellini's St. Francis". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved February 20, 2013.