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GIORGIONE (1477-1510)

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Originally appearing in Volume V12, Page 33 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GIORGIONE (1477-1510), Italian painter, was born at Castelfranco in 1477. In contemporary documents he is always called (according to the Venetian manner of pronunciation and spelling) Zorzi, Zorzo or Zorzon of Castelfranco. A tradition, having its origin in the 17th century, represented him as the natural son of some member of the great local family of the Barbarelli, by a peasant girl of the neighbouring village of Vedelago; consequently he is commonly referred to in histories and catalogues under the name of Giorgio Barbarelli or Barbarella. exercised, and continue to exercise, no less a spell on posterity. This tradition has, however, on close examination been proved But to identify and define, among the relics of his age and school, baseless. - On the other hand mention has been found in a precisely what that work is, and to distinguish it from the contemporary document of an earlier Zorzon, a native of kindred work of other men whom his influence inspired, is a Vedelago, living in Castelfranco in 146o. Vasari, who wrote very difficult matter. There are inclusive critics who still before the Barbarella legend had sprung up, says that Giorgione claim for Giorgione nearly every painting of the time that at was of very humble origin. It seems probable that he was all resembles his manner, and there are exclusive critics who pare simply the son or grandson of the afore-mentioned Zorzon the down to some ten or a dozen the list of extant pictures which elder; that the after-claim of the Barbarelli to kindred with him they will admit to be actually his. was a mere piece of family vanity, very likely suggested by the To name first those which are either certain or command analogous case of Leonardo da Vinci; and that, this claim once the most general acceptance, placing them in something like put abroad, the peasant-mother of Vedelago was invented on an approximate and probable order of date. In the Uffizi at the ground of some dim knowledge that his real progenitors Florence are two companion pieces of the " Trial of Moses " came from that village. and the " Judgment of Solomon," the latter the finer and Of the facts of his life we are almost as meagrely informed as better preserved of the two, which pass, no doubt justly, as of the circumstances of his birth. The little city, or large typical works of Giorgione's youth, and exhibit, though not yet fortified village, for it is scarcely more, of Castelfranco in the ripely, his special qualities of colour-richness and landscape Trevisan stands in the midst of a rich and broken plain at some romance, the peculiar facial types of his predilection, with the distance from the last spurs of the `Venetian Alps. From the pure form of forehead, fine oval of cheek, and somewhat close-set natural surroundings of Giorgione's childhood was no doubt eyes and eyebrows, and the intensity of that still and brooding derived his ideal of pastoral scenery, the country of pleasant sentiment with which, rather than with dramatic life and copses, glades, brooks and hills amid which his personages love movement, he instinctively invests his figures. Probably the to wander or recline with lute and pipe. How early in boyhood earliest of the portraits by common consent called his is the he went to Venice we do not know, but internal evidence beautiful one of a young man at Berlin. His earliest devotional supports the statement of Ridolfi that he served his apprentice- picture would seem to be the highly finished " Christ bearing ship there under Giovanni Bellini; and there he made his fame his Cross " (the head and shoulders only, with a peculiarly and had his home. That his gifts were early recognized we serene and high-bred cast of features) formerly at Vicenza and know from the facts, recorded in contemporary documents, now in the collection of Mrs Gardner at Boston. Other versions that in 1500, when he was only twenty-three (that is if Vasari of this picture exist, and it has been claimed that one in private gives rightly the age at which he died), he was chosen to paint possession at Vienna is the true original: erroneously in the portraits of the Doge Agostino Barberigo and the condottiere judgment of the present writer. Another " Christ bearing the Consalvo Ferrante; that in 1504 he was commissioned to paint Cross," with a Jew dragging at the rope round his neck, in the an altarpiece in memory of Matteo Costanzo in the cathedral church of San Rocco at Venice, is a ruined but genuine work, of his native town, Castelfranco; that in 1507 he received at the quoted by Vasari and Ridolfi, and copied with the name of order of the Council of Ten part payment for a picture (subject Giorgione appended, by Van Dyck in that master's Chatsworth not mentioned) on which he was engaged for the Hall of the sketch-book. (Vasari gives it to Giorgione in his first and to Audience in the ducal palace; and that in 1507—1508 he was Titian in his second edition.) The composition of a lost early employed, with other artists of his own generation, to decorate picture of the birth of Paris is preserved in an engraving of the with frescoes the exterior of the newly rebuilt Fondaco dei " Teniers Gallery " series, and an old copy of part of the same Tedeschi or German merchants' hall at Venice, having already picture is at Budapest. In the Giovanelli Palace at Venice done similar work on the exterior of the Casa Soranzo, the Casa is that fascinating and enigmatical mythology or allegory, Grimani alli Servi and other Venetian palaces. Vasari gives known to the Anonimo Morelliano, who saw it in 1530 in the house also as an important event in Giorgione's life, and one which had of Gabriel Vendramin, simply as " the small landscape with influence on his work, his meeting with Leonardo da Vinci on the storm, the gipsy woman and the soldier "; the picture is the occasion of the Tuscan master's visit to Venice in 1500. In conjecturally interpreted by modern authorities as illustrating September or October 1510 he died of the plague then raging a passage in Statius which describes the meeting of Adrastus in the city, and within a few days of his death we find the great with Hypsipyle when she was serving as nurse with the king of art-patroness and amateur, Isabella d'Este, writing from Mantua Nemea. Still belonging to the earlier part of the painter's and trying in vain to secure for her collection a night-piece by brief career is a beautiful, virginally pensive Judith at St Peters-his hand of which the fame had reached her. burg, which passed under various alien names, as Raphael, All accounts agree in representing Giorgione as a personage Moretto, &c., until its kindred with the unquestioned work of of distinguished and romantic charm, a great lover, a great Giorgione was in late years firmly established. The great musician, made to enjoy in life and to express in art to the Castelfranco altarpiece, still, in spite of many restorations, uttermost the delight, the splendour, the sensuous and imaginative one of the most classically pure and radiantly impressive works grace and fulness, not untinged with poetic melancholy, of the of Renaissance painting, may be taken as closing the earlier Venetian existence of his time. They represent him further as phase of the young master's work (1504). It shows the Virgin having made in Venetian painting an advance analogous to that loftily enthroned on a plain, sparely draped stone structure with made in Tuscan painting by Leonardo more than twenty years St Francis and a warrior saint (St Liberale) standing in attitudes before; that is as having released the art from the last shackles of great simplicity on either side of the foot of the throne, a of archaic rigidity and placed it in possession of full freedom high parapet behind them, and a beautiful landscape of the and the full mastery of its means. He also introduced a new master's usual type seen above it. Nearly akin to this master-range of subjects. Besides altarpieces and portraits he painted piece, not in shape or composition but by the type of the Virgin pictures that told no story, whether biblical or classical, or if and the very Bellinesque St Francis, is the altarpiece of the they professed to tell such, neglected the •action and simply Madonna with St Francis and St Roch at Madrid. Of the embodied in form and colour moods of lyrical or romantic master's fully ripened time is the fine and again enigmatical feeling, much as a musician might embody them in sounds. picture formerly in the house of Taddeo Contarini at Venice, Innovating with the courage and felicity of genius, he had for described by contemporary witnesses as the "Three Philosophers," a time an overwhelming influence on his contemporaries and and now, on slender enough grounds, supposed to represent immediate successors in the Venetian school, including Titian, Evander showing Aeneas the site of Troy as narrated in the Sebastian del Piombo, the elder Palma, Cariani and the two eighth Aeneid. The portrait of a knight of Malta in the Uffizi at Campagnolas, and not a little even on seniors of long-standing Florence has more power and authority, if less sentiment, than fame such as Giovanni Bellini. His name and work have the earlier example at Berlin, and may be taken to be of the master's middle time. Most entirely central and typical of all Giorgione's extant works is the Sleeping Venus at Dresden, first recognized by Morelli, and now universally accepted, as being the same as the picture seen by the Anonimo and later by Ridolfi in the Casa Marcello at Venice. An exquisitely pure and severe rhythm of line and contour chastens the sensuous richness of the presentment: the sweep of white drapery on which the goddess lies, and of glowing landscape that fills the space behind her, most harmoniously frame her divinity. It is recorded that the master left this piece unfinished and that the landscape, with a Cupid which subsequent restoration has removed, were completed after his death by Titian. The picture is the prototype of Titian's own Venus at the Uffizi and of many more by other painters of the school; but none of them attained the quality of the first exemplar. Of such small scenes of mixed classical mythology and landscape as early writers attribute in considerable number to Giorgione, there have survived at least two which bear strong evidences of his handiwork, though the action is in both of unwonted liveliness, namely the Apollo and Daphne of the Seminario at Venice and the Orpheus and Eurydice of Bergamo. The portrait of Antonio Grocardo at Budapest represents his fullest and most penetrating power in that branch of art. In his last years the purity and relative slenderness of form which mark his earlier female nudes, including the Dresden Venus, gave way to ideals of ampler mould, more nearly approaching those of Titian and his successors in Venetian art; as is proved by those last remaining fragments of the frescoes on the Grand Canal front of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi which were seen and engraved by Zanetti in 1760, but have now totally disappeared. Such change of ideal is apparent enough in the famous " Concert " or " Pastoral Symphony " of the Louvre, probably the latest, and certainly one of the most characteristic and harmoniously splendid, of Giorgione's creations that has come down to us, and has caused some critics too hastily to doubt its authenticity. We pass now to pictures for which some affirm and others deny the right to bear Giorgione's name. As youthful in style as the two early pictures in the Uffizi, and closely allied to them in feeling, though less so in colour, is an unexplained subject in the National Gallery, sometimes called for want of a better title the " Golden Age "; this is officially and by many critics given only to the "school of " Giorgione, but may not unreasonably be claimed for his own work (No.1173). There is also in England a group of three paintings which are certainly by one hand, and that a hand very closely related to Giorgione if not actually his own, namely the small oblong " Adoration of the Magi " in the National Gallery (No. 1160), the " Adoration of the Shepherds " belonging to Lord Allendale (with its somewhat inferior but still attractive replica at Vienna), and the small " Holy Family " in the collection of Mr R. H. Benson. The type of the Madonna in all these three pieces is different from that customary with the master, but there seems no reason why he should not at some particular moment have changed his model. The sentiment and gestures of the figures, the cast of draperies, the technical handling, and especially, in Lord Allen-dale's picture, the romantic richness of the landscape, all incline us to accept the group as original, notwithstanding the deviation of type already mentioned and certain weaknesses of drawing and proportion which we should have hardly looked for. Better known to European students in general are the two fine pictures commonly given to the master at the Pitti gallery in Florence, namely the " Three Ages " and the " Concert." Both are very Giorgionesque, the " Three Ages " leaning rather towards the early manner of Lorenzo Lotto, to whom by'some critics it is actually. given. The " Concert " is held on technical grounds cry some of the best judges rather to bear the character of Titian ,at the moment when the inspiration of Giorgione was strongest on him, at least so far as concerns the extremely beautiful and expressive central figure of the monk playing on the clavichord with reverted head, a very incarnation of musical rapture and yearning—the other figures are too much injured to judge. There are at least two famous single portraits as to which
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