My website, MyGiorgione, now includes my interpretations of Giorgione's "Tempest" as "The Rest on the Flight into Egypt"; his "Three Ages of Man" as "The Encounter of Jesus with the Rich Young Man"; Titian's, "Sacred and Profane Love" as "The Conversion of Mary Magdalen"; and Titian's "Pastoral Concert" as his "Homage to Giorgione".

Monday, September 27, 2010

Boy with an Arrow

The similarity between the young St. Joseph in Raphael’s “Sposalizio,” and the young St. Joseph in Giorgione’s “Tempesta” is matched by the similarity between Raphael’s, “St. Sebastian,” and Giorgione’s  “Boy with an Arrow.”

Giorgione: Boy with an Arrow
Both depict a soulful young man, head tilted to the side, holding a single arrow in his hand. Raphael’s version is dated around 1501 and scholars guess that Giorgione’s dates around 1508. Both are small paintings of about the same size.

Raphael St. Sebastian

The halo in Raphael’s version leaves no doubt about the subject but there is no agreement about Giorgione’s, “Boy with an Arrow.” The catalog entry of the 2004 Giorgione exhibition listed a number of different interpretations, including St. Sebastian, but favored a more metaphorical interpretation. The absence of a halo was one objection but Giorgione never used that device.

Starting with Vasari scholars have speculated on the possible influence of Leonardo on Giorgione, but it is interesting to speculate on the degree to which Giorgione was aware of Raphael’s work, especially after the sojourn of Fra Bartolommeo in Venice in 1508. The following description of Raphael’s painting could easily fit the “Boy with an Arrow.”
“the St. Sebastian in the Accademia Carrara at Bergamo, so Peruginesque at first glance, reveals on further analysis the distance that exists between Raphael and his master from his very earliest paintings. Perugino painted many such studies of young men and women, their heads tilted, viewed full-face. However several subtle differences—a firmer chin, a more finely modeled mouth, the very well structured nose whose bridge appears to join the arch of the eyebrow, a greater sense of volume—show this painting to be far removed from him….
The highly embroidered robe, the pattern on the shirt like notes of music, the slashed velvet of the jerkin…point to a love of ornamentation which comes from Pinturicchio but the saint’s neck-chain, clearly copied from a real example…is close to northern painting and has no equivalent in the work of Perugino or Pinturicchio. The saint grasps the fragile arrow of his martyrdom like a scepter; it is a marvelous image, a tour de force. The subtle treatment of the head, slightly tilted away from the spectator, is close in style to the Madonna with St. Jerome and St. Francis in spite of the difference in scale and like that painting, striking in its icon-like character and lack of three-dimensionality, it can be dated a little later in the same year, 1501."*
* Jean-Pierre Cuzin, Raphael, His Life and Works, 1985, p.20.


  1. Excellent! You've brought together my two most beloved Renaissance painters... Raphael and Giorgione.

    I had an interesting experience at Palazzo Pitti, where I got to behold a Raphael and Giorgione sitting on either side of a doorway.

    I did a guest post on it here. It was interesting to find out that attribution for Three Ages does not sit comfortably with some scholars!

    Two masters, Jupiter and a palace doorway

    Keep up the great work Frank!

    Kind Regards

  2. H:

    Thanks for the comment and for the link to my "Three Ages" essay in your Two Masters post. I'm halfway through both yours and Gianna's exchange and will comment there.