The Virgin Mary rises up like a giant Tower of Babel in a close-up view, separated from us by a slender railing along which runs the painter’s signature. The Virgin appears to be sitting on a marble slab, slightly raised, and her right shoulder is thrust forward to show us her nude son. Madonna and Child, also known as ’Dudley Madonna’, was painted in c. 1508 by Giovanni Bellini (Venice, c. 1430–1516), one of the most celebrated of Italian artists. This book tells the story of the painting, its painter and its provenance – the journey from Bellini’s 16th-century Venice to Dudley’s 19th-century London – and the context in which it was created, and later collected. The painting was probably acquired in Bologna by John William Ward (1781–1833), who in 1827 became the 1st Earl of Dudley. He was described by his contemporaries as a cultured and educated man, but also, especially in his later years, tending to madness. The Dudley collection was one of the most outstanding in 19th-century England. The years 1505–10 were crucial ones in Giovanni Bellini’s career, and this book examines anew the part he played in Venetian High Renaissance painting – his influence upon and response to the upcoming Giorgione, Titian and Sebastiano del Piombo; it looks in particular at the importance of the visit to the Venice of the Florentine Fra Bartolommeo in 1508. Antonio Mazzotta was Pidem Curatorial Assistant at the National Gallery, London, between 2008 and 2010, and he curated the exhibition, Titian’s First Masterpiece: The Flight into Egypt, at the National Gallery, London, 4 April – 19 August 2012.