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".

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Giorgione Self-Portrait

Giorgione Self Portrait
Budapest, 31.5 x 28.5 cm
Oil on paper, mounted on wood

In the first decade of the sixteenth century at the very height of the Renaissance six of the world’s greatest painters were active in Italy. We have all heard of Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael but Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione and Titian matched them in Venice. Of the six we know the least about Giorgione who died at about the age of 33 in 1510 at the height of his career.

Even though we have very little biographical information, we might have a very fine self-portrait of the artist. In a Budapest Museum there is a striking portrait of a young man that might be Giorgione himself. It is a small painting measuring 31.5 x 28.5 cm done in oil on paper and then mounted on wood. The painting bears a close resemblance to one in Braunschweig that has been identified as a self-portrait in the guise of David.

Giorgione: Self Portrait as David
Braunschweig, 52 x 43 cm
Oil on canvas

In her 1997 Giorgione catalog Jaynie Anderson gave the Braunschweig “David” to Giorgione but believed that the Budapest version was a later copy. In their 1997 catalog Pignatti and Pedrocco did not include either painting in their list of works by Giorgione.

The Budapest painting was included in the 2004 Giorgione exhibition held in both Venice and Vienna.  The catalog, “Giorgione Myth and Enigma”, described it in this way:

The paintings in Budapest and Braunschweig share the position of the head, the striking features, the facial expression with the knitted brow, drooping mouth and prominent chin. But the gaze in this small picture [Budapest] is much more direct, penetrating, critically examining; and at the same time the position of the head seems consciously posed. Instead of the melancholy, contemplative expression we find in the Braunschweig painting, there is a feeling of concentrated self-expression.

The catalog noted that some have called the painting a copy, perhaps by Dosso Dossi or Palma Vecchio, but sided with those who “defend its authenticity.” It cited Baldass who in 1955 gave it to Giorgione and said: “The sketch is made from the life model.”

In his 2007 Giorgione catalog Wolfgang Eller also gave both paintings to Giorgione mainly on stylistic grounds, and he noted that the Budapest “self-portrait is one of the first oil sketches on paper.”

The use of paper support is much more customary for sketches and drafts than for copies executed in oil. The type of depiction makes is appear probable that Giorgione painted the picture in the evening sitting in front of a mirror in his atelier.[1]

In his Lives of the Painters Vasari credited Giorgione with the invention of the modern manner and since then most scholars have agreed that Giorgione’s work signaled a revolution in art.

At the same time when Florence was acquiring so much renown form the works of Leonardo, the city of Venice obtained no small glory from the talents and excellence of one of its citizens, by whom the Bellini, then held in such esteem, were very far surpassed, as were all others who had practiced painting up to that time in that city. This was Giorgio, born in the year 1478, at Castelfranco, in the territory of Treviso…Giorgio was, at a later period, called Giorgione, as well from the character of his person as for the exaltation of his mind….[2]

I would like to believe that the man in the Budapest painting is Giorgione. He is young, self-confident, and his expression shows that audacity that marked all his work. With his long hair and prominent features he even resembles the man in the "Tempest". ###

Giorgione: Tempest

[1] Wolfgang Eller, Giorgione, 2007, p.117

[2] Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, selected, edited, and introduced by Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, Volume II, New York, 1967, p. 227.

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