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A possible self-portrait, perhaps as David
Born Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco
c. 1477–1478
Castelfranco Veneto, Italy
Died 1510 (age 32–33)
Venice, Italy
Nationality Italian[1]
Education Giovanni Bellini
Known for Painting
Notable work The Tempest
Sleeping Venus
Castelfranco Madonna
The Three Philosophers
Movement High Renaissance

Giorgione (Italian: ; born Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco; c. 1477/8–1510[2]) was an Italian painter of the Venetian school in the High Renaissance from Venice, whose career was cut off by his death at a little over 30. Giorgione is known for the elusive poetic quality of his work, though only about six surviving paintings are acknowledged for certain to be his work. The resulting uncertainty about the identity and meaning of his art has made Giorgione one of the most mysterious figures in European painting.

Together with Titian, who was slightly younger, he is the founder of the distinctive Venetian school of Italian Renaissance painting, which achieves much of its effect through colour and mood, and is traditionally contrasted with the reliance on the more linear disegno-led style of Florentine painting.


  • Life 1
  • Works 2
  • Attributions 3
  • Legacy 4
  • Selected works 5
  • Gallery 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


The little known of Giorgione's life is given in Carlo Ridolfi that he served his apprenticeship there under Giovanni Bellini; there he settled and made his fame.

Contemporary documents record that his gifts were recognized early. In 1500, when he was only twenty-three (that is, if Vasari is correct about his age when he died), he was chosen to paint portraits of the Doge Agostino Barbarigo and the condottiere Consalvo Ferrante. In 1504 he was commissioned to paint an altarpiece in memory of another condottiere, Matteo Costanzo, in the cathedral of his native town, Castelfranco. In 1507 he received at the order of the Council of Ten part payment for a picture (subject not mentioned) on which he was engaged for the Hall of the Audience in the Doge's Palace. In 1507–1508 he was employed, with other artists of his generation, to decorate with frescoes the exterior of the newly rebuilt Fondaco dei Tedeschi (or German Merchants' Hall) at Venice, having already done similar work on the exterior of the Casa Soranzo, the Casa Grimani alli Servi and other Venetian palaces. Very little of this work survives today.

Laura (1506)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

Vasari mentions an important event in Giorgione's life, and one which had influence on his work, his meeting with Leonardo da Vinci on the occasion of the Tuscan master's visit to Venice in 1500. All accounts agree in representing Giorgione as a person of distinguished and romantic charm, a great lover and a musician, given to express in his art the sensuous and imaginative grace, touched with poetic melancholy, of the Venetian existence of his time. They represent him further as having made in Venetian painting an advance analogous to that made in Tuscan painting by Leonardo more than twenty years before; that is, as having released the art from the last shackles of archaic rigidity and placed it in possession of full freedom and the full mastery of its means.

He was very closely associated with Giovanni_Bellini, and lived in his house. They worked together on the Fondaco dei Tedeschi frescoes, and Titian finished at least some paintings of Giorgione after his death, although which ones remains very controversial.

Giorgione also introduced a new range of subjects. Besides Morto da Feltre, Domenico Capriolo, and Domenico Mancini.

Giorgione died, probably of the plague then raging, by October, 1510. He was usually thought to have died and been buried on the island of Poveglia in the Ventetian lagoon,[3][4] but an archive document published for the first time in 2011 places his death on the island of Lazzareto Nuovo; both were used as places of quarantine in times of plague.[5] October 1510 is also the date of a letter by Isabella d'Este to a Venetian friend; asking him to buy a painting by Giorgione; the letter shows she was aware he was already dead. Significantly, the reply a month later said the painting was not to be had at any price.

His name and work continue to exercise a spell on posterity. But to identify and define, among the relics of his age and school, precisely what that work is, and to distinguish it from the similar work of other men whom his influence inspired, is a very difficult matter. Though there are no longer any supporters of the "Pan Giorgionismus"[6] which a century ago claimed for Giorgione nearly every painting of the time that at all resembles his manner, there are still, as then, exclusive critics who reduce to half a dozen the list of extant pictures which they will admit to be actually by this master.


Sleeping Venus (c. 1510)
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany.

For his home town of Castelfranco, Giorgione painted the Sleeping Venus now in Dresden. It was first recognized by Giovanni Morelli, and is now universally accepted, as being the same as the picture seen by Marcantonio Michiel and later by Ridolfi (his 17th century biographer) in the Casa Marcello at Venice. An exquisitely pure and severe rhythm of line and contour chastens the sensuous richness of the painting. The sweep of white drapery on which the goddess lies; and the glowing landscape that fills the space behind her; most harmoniously frame her divinity. The use of an external landscape to frame a nude is innovative; but in addition, to add to her mystery, she is shrouded in sleep, spirited away from accessibility to any conscious expression.

It is recorded by Michiel that Giorgione left this piece unfinished and that the landscape, with a Netherlands, but Giorgione was the first major Italian painter to concentrate his work on it to such an extent — indeed soon after his death the size of paintings began to increase with the prosperity and palaces of the patrons.

The Tempest (c. 1508)
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, Italy.

The Tempest has been called the first landscape in the history of Western painting. The subject of this painting is unclear, but its artistic mastery is apparent. The Tempest portrays a soldier and a breast-feeding woman on either side of a stream, amid a city's rubble and an incoming storm. The multitude of symbols in The Tempest offer many interpretations, but none is wholly satisfying. Theories that the painting is about duality (city and country, male and female) have been dismissed since radiography has shown that in the earlier stages of the painting the soldier to the left was a seated female nude.[8]

Pastoral Concert, now in the Louvre. The latter "reveals the Venetians' love of textures", because the painter "renders almost palpable the appearance of flesh, fabric, wood, stone, and foliage".[9] The painting is devoid of harsh contours and its treatment of landscape has been frequently compared to pastoral poetry, hence the title.

Giorgione and the young Uffizi are usually accepted.

Pastoral Concert. Louvre, Paris. A work which the museum now attributes to Titian, c. 1509.[15]

After that, things become more complicated, as exemplified by Pastoral Concert and the other pictures like it to a third artist, the very obscure Domenico Mancini..".[19]


Young Man with Arrow, (1506)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Selected works

Though he died at the age of 32 or 33, Giorgione left a lasting legacy to be developed by Titian and 17th-century artists. Giorgione never subordinated line and colour to architecture, nor an artistic effect to a sentimental presentation. He was arguably the first Italian to paint landscapes with figures as movable pictures in their own frames with no devotional, allegorical, or historical purpose — and the first whose colours possessed that ardent, glowing, and melting intensity which was so soon to typify the work of all the Venetian School.


Recent major exhibitions at Vienna and Venice in 2004 and Washington in 2006, have given art historians further opportunities to see disputed works side by side (see External links below). [25] There are effectively two fronts on which the battles are fought: paintings with figures and landscape, and portraits. According to David Rosand in 1997, "The situation has been thrown into new critical confusion by Alessandro Ballarin's radical revision of the corpus ...[Paris exhibition catalogue, 1993, increasing it] ... as well as Mauro Lucco ..[Milan book, 1996]." [24] for example, was long regarded as a Judith Despite being greatly praised by all contemporary writers, and remaining a great name in Italy, Giorgione became less known to the wider world, and many of his (probable) paintings were assigned to others. The Hermitage

Matters are further complicated because no drawing can be certainly identified as by Giorgione (although one in Rotterdam is widely accepted), and a number of aspects of the arguments over the defining of Giorgione's late style involve drawings.

[23], rather more correctly) in the Allendale Adoration of the Shepherds (or Allendale Nativity At an earlier period in Giorgione's short career, a group of paintings is sometimes described as the "Allendale group", after the

The Allendale Nativity/Adoration of the Shepherds c. 1505 – National Gallery of Art. The "Allendale Group" takes its name from this painting.

[20] and [14],Boy with an Arrow, Sleeping Venus, The Three Philosophers, The Tempest [13] Primary documentation for attributions comes from the Venetian collector Marcantonio Michiel. In notes dating from 1525 to 1543 he identifies twelve paintings and one drawing as by Giorgione, of which five of the paintings are identified virtually unanimously with surviving works by art historians:

The difficulty in making secure attributions of work by Giorgione's hand dates from soon after his death, when some of his paintings were completed by other artists, and his considerable reputation also led to very early erroneous claims of attribution. The vast bulk of documentation for paintings in this period relates to large commissions for Church or government; the small domestic panels that make up the bulk of Giorgione's oeuvre are always far less likely to be recorded. Other artists continued to work in his style for some years, and probably by the mid-century deliberately deceptive work had started.[12]

Sebastiano del Piombo finished it. Some modern writers also involve Titian in its completion.


Few of the portraits attributed to Giorgione appear as straightforward records of the appearance of a commissioning individual, although it is entirely possible that many are. Many can be read as types designed to express a mood or atmosphere, and certainly many of the examples of the portrait tradition Giorgione initiated appear to have had this purpose, and not to have been sold to the sitter. The subjects of his non-religious figure paintings are equally hard to discern. Perhaps the first question to ask is whether there was intended to be a specific meaning to these paintings that ingenious research can hope to recover. Many art historians argue that there is not: "The best evidence, perhaps, that Giorgione's pictures were not particularly esoteric in their meaning is provided by the fact that while his stylistic innovations were widely adopted, the distinguishing feature of virtually all Venetian non-religious painting in the first half of the 16th century is the lack of learned or literary content".[11]

[9], acclaimed by art historians for "the indescribably subtle expression of serenity and the immobile features, added to the chiseled effect of the silhouette and modeling".Berlin now in Portrait of a Young Man (1 June 1506), one of the first to be painted in the "modern manner", distinguished by dignity, clarity, and sophisticated characterization. Even more striking is the Laura his portrait of [10]

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