- (Giorgio da Castelfranco; c. 1477-1510).Leading painter of the Venetian School. Little is known of Giorgione's career and only a handful of his works have been attributed to him firmly. He is thought to have studied with Giovanni Bellini and to have begun his solo career as a painter of small devotional representations of the Madonna and Child. This information comes from Giorgio Vasari who also related that Giorgione was influenced by Leonardo da Vinci, who had visited Venice in 1500, and that he was an accomplished singer and lute player, as well as a great lover and conversationalist.The few works known with certainty to have been executed by Giorgione reveal his ability to place figures in poetic landscapes and to grant an ethereal quality through his lush brushwork. In his Allendale Nativity (c. 1505; Washington, National Gallery), the landscape dominates the figures. Pockets of light illuminate the winding road taken by the shepherds who have come to adore the Christ Child, a feature that recalls Andrea Mantegna's Adoration of the Magi (c. 1464; Florence, Uffizi) painted for Ludovico Gonzaga for his private chapel. As in Mantegna's example, the Holy Family is shown at the mouth of a dark cave, a reference to the Holy Sepulcher where Christ will be buried after the Crucifixion. Giorgione's Enthroned Madonna with Sts. Liberalis and Francis, also known as the Castelfranco Altarpiece (c. 1500-1505; Castelfranco, Cathedral), is his only surviving altarpiece. It again shows the influence of Mantegna, as well as that of Giovanni Bellini, in that the Virgin and Child are elevated on a high throne, with a cloth of honor that pushes them forward and separates them from the background landscape. The work also demonstrates Giorgione's awareness of Pietro Perugino's art, particularly the serene quality of his scenes, his pyramidal compositions, and the elegant poses of the figures with their exaggerated sway.Giorgione's The Tempest (1500-1505; Venice, Galleria dell' Accademia) is one of his best-known works and also the most enigmatic. Art historians have offered interpretations that vary from mythological to allegorical to political. What is recognized unanimously is that this is the earliest known example of a sensuous nude figure in a landscape, a subject that would be favored by later Venetian masters. Giorgione's Fête Champetre (c. 1510; Louvre, Paris) and Sleeping Venus (c. 1510; Dresden, Gemäldegalerie) also present examples of the nude in the landscape. These two works are believed by some to have been completed or completely rendered by Titian, Giorgione's pupil. The Sleeping Venus is the first of many reclining female nudes and would inspire similar compositions not only by Titian but also Lucas Cranach the Elder, Diego Velázquez, Peter Paul Rubens, François Boucher, Francisco Goya, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Edouard Manet, and others.
Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. Lilian H. Zirpolo. 2008.