Evelyn Waugh was the master of the putdown. And one of the best comes in Brideshead Revisited, when Lord Marchmain asks Charles Ryder who his favourite Venetian painter is:
'Bellini,' I answered rather wildly.
'I'm afraid I didn't know there were two of them.'
'Three, to be precise. You will find that, in the great ages, painting was very much a family business.'
Waugh never discloses which Bellini Charles preferred – but surely it was Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516), whose father, Jacopo, and brother, Gentile, were also painters.
Giovanni's works star in a new National Gallery show, alongside his brother-in-law Mantegna, opening on October 1. Mantegna is pretty marvellous, too, but it is this picture of the Doge Leonardo Loredan which really steals the show: so serene and yet so tough, spare and austere in his expression; so rich and lavish in his dress and headgear.
It is this Bellini, too, who painted a saint's toga in the same colour that results from mixing Prosecco and peach juice - thus the name of the famous drink created at Harry's Bar in Venice. To drink a Bellini in front of this Bellini would be close to heaven – but the National Gallery understandably doesn't allow beverages in its galleries.