The notebooks of Jacopo Bellini, the early Renaissance Venetian painter, confront art historians with one of their peskiest examples of the problem of trying to explain what a work of art is all about. In Bellini’s case the problem is often resolved by not bringing it up at all. That option will be more difficult following this attractive publication of The Louvre Album of Drawings. Heretofore this notebook and the second one, in the British Museum, could be studied only in very limited selections or in two rare deluxe facsimile editions, published some seventy years ago. Fragility has rightly limited access to the originals. Other factors, too, have made it possible to get away with silence about them. The most obvious is that Bellini’s paintings are mostly lost so that we are not often faced with the part of his work that would normally provide our main access to him. Drawings generally are looked at,...


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