The first information on the pictorial career of Cima da Conegliano (Giovanni Battista Cima) dates back to 1489 with the dating of the altarpiece made for the church of S. Bartolomeo in Vicenza.
Not much is known about the painter's training, the traditional belief of an apprenticeship with Giovanni Bellini derives from Giorgio Vasari, who mentions him briefly about Carpaccio's life. More recently it is assumed that Cima was formed in the territories adjacent to Conegliano such as Ceneda and Serravalle.
The last decade of the 15th century marks its success in the altarpieces, a propitious moment as Giovanni Bellini was busy making the canvases for the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in Palazzo Ducale. From this period we can remember the Baptism of Christ for the church of S. Giovanni in Bragora, in which there is a great balance between the human figure and the surrounding natural environment, and the Madonna of the orange, performed for the Franciscan monastery di S. Chiara in Murano (now in the Accademia Galleries). Both the aforementioned paintings are based on one of the typical characteristics of the Venetian painter and painting of the time: the great wealth of details, based on his great knowledge of zoology and botany, always a prelude to a further meaning that was however clearly interpretable (at least for the time coeval with him).
A sign of the importance that Cima had acquired after his arrival in Venice is the thirty altar paintings left (including altarpieces, triptychs and polyptychs) despite his death at a young age.
Works worthy of mention of the new century are the two versions of the Incredulity of St. Thomas (performed respectively for the School of Mureri in Venice and for the School of San Tommaso dei Battuti in Portogruaro) and the Adoration of the Shepherds for Santa Maria dei Carmini commissioned by a cloth merchant.
One of the themes to which Cima devoted himself most was that of the Madonna and Child, of Byzantine derivation and widespread in Venice from the 14th century above all with small paintings. The painter interpreted this subject in a personal way, with references to contemporary Venetian statuary as well as to the ancient world. The supporting role was played by the landscape, which in his painting became a precise representation of specific places with alternating natural and artificial elements, also accompanied by symbolic elements.
Although in a decidedly small number compared to the devotional subjects, mythological themes also appear in Cima's catalog, mainly taken from the vernacular translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, printed in Venice in 1497.
Cima died between 1517 and 1518 probably in his hometown, Conegliano.