Jacopo Pesaro being presented by Pope Alexander VI to Saint Peter


Pieve di Cadore 1477 - Venice 1576
oil on canvas
147.8 x 188.7 x 2.5 cm
Inventory number 357

In 1502, Jacopo Pesaro, the Bishop of Paphos - present-day Cyprus - and commander of the papal fleet, conquered the Island of Santa Maura on the Turks, a military triumph he subsequently had immortalised in this painting. The composition was designed by Giovanni Bellini, who was generally regarded as one of the most important artists in Venice at the time. Titian subsequently executed the painting. As a grandmaster of the Italian Renaissance, he would greatly influence not only his contemporaries, but also painters of later generations, including Rubens and van Dyck.
With a protective gesture, Pope Alexander VI commends the kneeling Jacopo Pesaro to St Peter, who responds with a blessing. Lying at Peter’s feet are the keys to Heaven. The banner held by Pesaro bears his coat of arms and that of the pope. Like the helmet in the foreground and the galleys at sea, the banner is a reference to his recent conquest.

Love of God

In the relief on the plinth under Peter, we notice a Cupid. His arrow of divine love is aimed at the woman to his right: Venus-Victrix, symbol of victory, peace and virtue. At the same time, he turns away from the earthly and bodily love represented by the couple and the men with grapes to the left. This allegorical scene demonstrates how Pesaro, through his love of God, achieved victory on Santa Maura. As the saying goes, love conquers all.

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