Jacopo Bellini, St Michael Defeating Satan, a drawing

Italy, about AD 1455-65

Although few paintings by Jacopo Bellini (about 1400-70/1) survive, both The British Museum and the Musée du Louvre in Paris own a bound volume of his compositional drawings. The London volume contains one hundred and thirty four drawings, nearly all drawn in leadpoint on heavy white paper. As a medium leadpoint is very soft, therefore the line is very faint.

According to Revelation, the last book of the Bible, war broke out in heaven and St Michael and his angels defeated the dragon or Satan and the forces of evil. In this two page drawing, St Michael flies across the rocky and fiery landscape of Hell to attack Satan. The Devil cowers at lower right, long horns on his head and bat's wings on his back. The archangel's sword has split open the rocks, allowing a figure to crawl out and another to witness the angelic battle. The main scene takes place on the recto (front) of the sheet and continues onto the verso (back) of the previous sheet.

Jacopo was the founder of a family of artists. He worked with both his half brother, Giovanni, and his nephew, Leonardo, while his own sons, Gentile and Giovanni (around 1438-1516), both became major Venetian artists. Both sons, in turn, inherited their father's book of drawings, now in The British Museum. Jacopo's son-in-law was Andrea Mantegna (1430-1506), an artist from Padua who worked at the court of the Gonzaga family in Mantua.

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More information


A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, Italian drawings in the Depa-5 (London, The British Museum Press, 1950)

C. Eisler, The genius of Jacopo Bellini: (London, The British Museum Press, 1989)

F. Ames-Lewis, Drawing in early Renaissance I (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1981)


Height: 415.000 mm
Width: 335.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1855-8-11-48



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