Venice’s adoption of these Renaissance styles was itself a remarkable break with the past, for the Venetians had always favored the sophisticated East when it came to artistic expression. But times were changing. The flame of Byzantium was flickering and even Venice turned its attention to the Western terra firma. Among the earliest Renaissance artists in Venice was Jacopo Bellini. The son of a Venetian tinsmith, Bellini worked under Gentile da Fabriano, who produced various now-lost works for the Great Council in 1408. Bellini accompanied his master to Florence, where he remained for some years learning the new artistic techniques pioneered there. Later, Bellini traveled to Bruges, where he was introduced to the use of oil paints on canvas — a medium that would forever change Venice.
The seat of high culture in fifteenth-century Venice was not at the governmental center, but in its outskirts at Padua. There, since 1222, a university had flourished that drew the best minds in Europe and provided an excellent education for Venice’s elite. After returning to Venice, Bellini set up shop in Padua with his two sons, Gentile and Giovanni. They were likely influenced by the arrival in 1443 of Donatello, who lived in Padua for about a decade. His masterwork during those years was the equestrian statue of the condottiere Erasmo da Narni…This magnificent life-size bronze was the first such statue produced since the days of ancient Rome.
That is from Thomas F. Madden, Venice: A New History.