Reflection of Philosophical Ideas

Giorgione La tempesta 1508

“Giorgione created a demand which other painters were forced to supply at the risk of finding no favour. The older painters accommodated themselves as best they could. One of them indeed, turning toward the new in a way that is full of singular charm, gave his later works all the beauty and softness of the first spring days in Italy. Upon hearing the title of one of Catena’s works in the National Gallery, “A Warrior Adoring the Infant Christ,” who could imagine what a treat the picture itself had in store for him? It is a fragrant summer landscape enjoyed by a few quiet people, one of whom, in armour, with the glamour of the Orient about him, kneels at the Virgin’s feet, while a romantic young page holds his horse’s bridle. I mention this picture in particular because it is so accessible, and so good an instance of the Giorgionesque way of treating a subject; not for the story, nor for the display of skill, nor for the obvious feeling, but for the lovely landscape, for the effects of light and colour, and for the sweetness of human relations. Giorgione’s altar-piece at Castelfranco is treated in precisely the same spirit, but with far more genius. [Berenson on Giorgione]

Giorgione The Three Philosophers 1508–1509

“The landscape was also being reinvented, largely through Giorgione’s example. For the first time, at least in the west, natural scenery was not just background but the main subject of painting (Chinese artists had adopted this approach at least 500 years previously). Dürer is one of the first to have dwelled in detail on the appearance of nature, but it was Giorgione who elevated it to a new level of meaning and art. In The Three Philosophers, a painting now in Vienna, the surroundings, and natural forms of rock and wood, seem to be a deliberate reflection of philosophical ideas – the opposition of light and dark, for example.” [John-Paul Stonard on Giorgione]

Giorgione Young Woman “Laura” 1506

The young painters had no chance at all unless they undertook at once to furnish pictures in Giorgione’s style. But before we can appreciate all that the younger men were called upon to do, we must turn to the consideration of that most wonderful product of the Renaissance and of the painter’s craft—the Portrait….
But Giorgione and his immediate followers painted men and women whose very look leads one to think of sympathetic friends, people whose features are pleasantly rounded, whose raiment seems soft to touch, whose surroundings call up the memory of sweet landscapes and refreshing breezes. In fact, in these portraits the least apparent object was the likeness, the real purpose being to please the eye and to turn the mind toward pleasant themes. This no doubt helps to account for the great popularity of portraits in Venice during the sixteenth century. Their number, as we shall see, only grows larger as the century advances.” [Berenson on Giorgione]

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