St. Mark Preaching in Alexandria is an impressive, substantial work: it measures 3.47 m by 7.70 m.

Gentille Bellini[1] started the canvas in July 1504. However, he died in February, 1507, before the work was completed. The painting was eventually completed in March, 1507, by Gentille’s brother, Giovanni.

It is believed that Gentille asked Giovanni to complete the painting before Gentille died. Giovanni refused. Gentille then prepared a will in which Giovanni was to be given a collection of drawings from their father and one of the founders of the Renaissance style of painting, Jacopo Bellini, but only on the condition that Giovanni complete the painting.

Conditions precedent, although rare, are not unheard of. Consider a will that provides that the beneficiary can inherit a $300m estate if he can spend $30m in 30 days (Brewster’s Millions), a will that provides for the residue of an estate to pass to “the mother who has since my death given birth in Toronto to the greatest number of children” (Millar Estate), or a will that provides that the beneficiary can inherit a substantial gift, but only if he or she spends the night in a (haunted) house (just about every Scooby-Doo episode).

However, wills with conditions can be fraught with difficulty. There are issues of uncertainty or even impossibility of the condition. They can be contrary to public policy. The condition may also be considered to be “repugnant” to the nature of the gift. An issue arises as to whether the condition is a condition precedent, in which the gift may fail in its entirety, or a condition subsequent, in which the gift may stand but the condition may fail. Great care in drafting such clauses is required.

Thank you for reading.

Paul Trudelle

[1]           Fun fact: Yes, the Bellini cocktail is named after Giovanni Bellini. Apparently, the pink colour of the peach puree and prosecco drink reminded its inventor, Giuseppe Cipriani of Harry’s Bar, Venice, of the colour of a toga of a saint in one of Giovanni’s paintings.