ObeliskThe Artists


Portrait of Giorgione

Rich color and mood like smooth syrup

Giorgione was born Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco, in the small town of Castelfranco Veneto near Venice. By his early 20’s he was winning commissions to paint local officials and over the next ten years would develop skills rivaling the greatest of the Italian masters, and would help to define the moody, rich colors of the Venetian school of Renaissance painting.

The linguistically beautiful and factually suspect historian Giorgio Vasari describes Giorgione as a man who delighted in all the beauty the world could offer, singing and playing the lute, and “putting into his pictures, the greatest beauty and the greatest variety that he could find.” His gentle obsession with the soft tones of flesh and the shade of quiet trees distinguish his paintings, and profoundly influenced his student Titian.

But a love of beauty cost Giorgione dearly. In 1511, his lover, whose name we do not know, caught the black plague. Giorgione was infected, and died at age 34. Today much of his work is lost or blurry in attribution. Only six surviving artworks are attributed to Giorgione today — we've posted eight. Which ones do you think are his?

Reed Enger, "Giorgione, Rich color and mood like smooth syrup," in Obelisk Art History, Published September 27, 2016; last modified May 21, 2018, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/giorgione/.

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