HotFreeBooks.com
Giorgione
by Herbert Cook
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

GIORGIONE

BY

HERBERT COOK, M.A., F.S.A.

BARRISTER-AT-LAW



1904



"Born half-way between the mountains and the sea—that young George of Castelfranco—of the Brave Castle: Stout George they called him, George of Georges, so goodly a boy he was—Giorgione."

(RUSKIN: Modern Painters, vol. V. pt. IX. ch. IX.)

First Published, November 1900 Second Edition, revised, with new Appendix, February 1904.



PREFACE

Unlike most famous artists of the past, Giorgione has not yet found a modern biographer. The whole trend of recent criticism has, in his case, been to destroy not to fulfil. Yet signs are not wanting that the disintegrating process is at an end, and that we have reached the point where reconstruction may be attempted. The discovery of documents and the recovery of lost pictures in the last few years have increased the available material for a more comprehensive study of the artist, and the time has come when the divergent results arrived at by independent modern inquirers may be systematically arranged, and a reconciliation of apparently conflicting views attempted on a psychological basis.

Crowe and Cavalcaselle were the first to examine the subject critically. They separated—so far as was then possible (1871)—the real from the traditional Giorgione, and their account of his life and works must still rank as the nearest equivalent to a modern biography. Morelli, who followed in 1877, was in singular sympathy with his task, and has written of his favourite master enthusiastically, yet with consummate judgment. Among living authorities, Dr. Gronau, Herr Wickhoff, Signor Venturi, and Mr. Bernhard Berenson have contributed effectively to the elucidation of obscure or disputed points, and the latter writer has probably come nearer than anyone to recognise the scope of Giorgione's art, and grasp the man behind his work. The monograph by Signor Conti and the chapter in Pater's Renaissance may be read for their delicate appreciations of the "Giorgionesque"; other contributions on the subject will be found in the Bibliography.

It is absolutely necessary for those whose judgment depends upon a study of the actual pictures to be constantly registering and adjusting their impressions. I have personally seen and studied all the pictures I believe to be by Giorgione, with the exception of those at St. Petersburg; and many galleries and churches where they hang have been visited repeatedly, and at considerable intervals of time. If in the course of years my individual impressions (where they deviate from hitherto recognised views) fail to stand the test of time, I shall be the first to admit their inadequacy. If, on the other hand, they prove sound, some of the mists which at present envelop the figure of Giorgione will have been dispersed.

H.C.

November 1900



NOTE TO THE SECOND EDITION

To this Edition an Appendix has been added, containing—(1) an article by the Author on the age of Titian, which was published in the Nineteenth Century of January 1902; (2) the translation of a reply by Dr. Georg Gronau, published in the Repertorium fuer Kunstwissenschaft; (3) a further reply by the Author, published in the same German periodical.

The writer wishes to acknowledge his indebtedness to the Editors of the Nineteenth Century and of the Repertorium for permission to reprint these articles.

A better photograph of the "Portrait of an Unknown Man" at Temple Newsam has now been taken (p. 87), and sundry footnotes have been added to bring the text up to date.

H. C.

ESHER, January 1904.



CONTENTS

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Chapter I. GIORGIONE'S LIFE

II. GIORGIONE'S GENERALLY ACCEPTED WORKS

III. INTERMEDIATE SUMMARY

IV. ADDITIONAL PICTURES—PORTRAITS

V. ADDITIONAL PICTURES—OTHER SUBJECTS

VI. GIORGIONE'S ART, AND PLACE IN HISTORY

APPENDIX I—DOCUMENTS

APPENDIX II—THE AGE OF TITIAN

CATALOGUE OF WORKS



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Madonna, with SS. Francis and Liberale. Castelfranco.

Adrastus and Hypsipyle. Palazzo Giovanelli, Venice

Aeneas, Evander, and Pallas. Vienna Gallery

The Judgment of Solomon. Uffizi Gallery

The Trial of Moses. Uffizi Gallery

Christ bearing the Cross. Collection of Mrs. Gardner, Boston, U.S.A.

Knight of Malta. Uffizi Gallery

The Adoration of the Shepherds. Vienna Gallery

The Judgment of Solomon. Collection of Mrs. Ralph Bankes, Kingston Lacy

Portrait of a Young Man. Berlin Gallery

Portrait of a Man. Buda-Pesth Gallery

Portrait of a Lady. Borghese Gallery, Rome

Apollo and Daphne. Seminario, Venice

Venus. Dresden Gallery

Judith. Hermitage Gallery, St. Petersburg

Pastoral Symphony. Louvre, Paris

The Three Ages. Pitti Gallery

Nymph and Satyr. Pitti Gallery

Madonna, with SS. Roch and Francis. Prado, Madrid

The Birth of Paris—Copy of a portion. Buda-Pesth Gallery

Shepherd Boy. Hampton Court

Portrait of a Man. (By Torbido) Padua Gallery

The Concert. Pitti Gallery

The Adoration of the Magi (or Epiphany). National Gallery

Christ bearing the Cross. Collection of Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth. (Sketch by Vandyck, after the original by Giorgione in S. Rocco, Venice)

Mythological Scenes. Two Cassone pieces Padua Gallery

Portrait of "Ariosto". Collection of the Earl of Darnley, Cobham Hall

Portrait of Caterina Cornaro. Collection of Signor Crespi, Milan

Bust of Caterina Cornaro. Pourtales Collection, Berlin

Portrait of "A Poet". National Gallery

Portrait of a Man. Querini-Stampalia Gallery, Venice

Portrait of a Man. Collection of the Hon. Mrs. Meynell-Ingram, Temple Newsam.

Portrait of "Parma, the Physician". Vienna Gallery

Orpheus and Eurydice. Bergamo Gallery

The Golden Age (?). National Gallery

Venus and Adonis. National Gallery

Holy Family. Collection of Mr. Robert Benson, London

The "Gipsy" Madonna. Vienna Gallery

Madonna. Collection of Mr. Robert Benson, London

The Adulteress before Christ. Glasgow Gallery

Madonna and Saints. Louvre, Paris



BIBLIOGRAPHY

ANONIMO. "Notizia d'opere di disegno." Ed. Frizzoni. Bologna, 1884. Passim.

Archivio Storico dell' Arte (now L'Arte), 1888, p. 47. (See also sub Venturi.)

Art Journal. 1895. p. 90. (Dr. Richter.)

BERENSON, B. "Venetian Painting at the New Gallery." 1895. (Privately printed.) "Venetian Painters of the Renaissance." Third edition, 1897. Putnam, London. Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1897, p. 279.

BURCKHARDT. "Cicerone." Sixth edition, 1893. (Dr. Bode.)

CONTI, A. "Giorgione, Studio." Florence, 1894.

CROWE AND CAVALCASELLE. "History of Painting in North Italy," vol. ii. London, 1871. "Life of Titian." Two vols.

FRY, ROGER. "Giovanni Bellini." London, 1899.

GRONAU, DR. G. Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1894, p. 332. Repertorium fuer Kunstwissenschaft, xviii. 4, p. 284. "Zorzon da Castelfranco. La sua origine, la sua morte, e tomba." Venice, 1894. "Tizian." Berlin, 1900.

LAFENESTRE, G. "La vie et l'oeuvre de Titien." Paris, 1886.

LOGAN, MARY. "Guide to the Italian Pictures at Hampton Court." London, 1894.

Magazine of Art, 1890, pp. 91 and 138. (Sir W. Armstrong.) 1893. April. (Mr. W.F. Dickes.)

MORELLI, GIOVANNI. "Italian Painters." Translated by C.J. Ffoulkes. London, 1892. Vols. i. and ii. passim.

MUeNTZ, E. "La fin de la Renaissance." Paris.

New Gallery Catalogue of Exhibition of Venetian Art, 1895.

PATER, W. "The Renaissance." Chapter on the School of Giorgione. London, 1893.

PHILLIPS, CLAUDE. Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1884, p. 286. Magazine of Art, July 1895. "The Picture Gallery of Charles I." (Portfolio, January 1896). "The Earlier Work of Titian" (Portfolio, October 1897). North American Review, October 1899.

Repertorium fuer Kunstwissenschaft. Bd. xiv. p. 316. (Herr von Seidlitz.) Bd. xix. Hft. 6. (Dr. Harck.)

RIDOLFI, C. "Le Maraviglie dell' arte della pittura." Venice, 1648.

Royal Academy. Catalogues of the Exhibitions of Old Masters.

VASARI. "Le Vite." Ed. Sansoni. Florence, 1879. Translation edited by Blashfield and Hopkins, with Notes. London, 1897.

VENTURI, ADOLFO. Archivio Storico dell' Arte, vi. 409, 412. L'Arte, 1900, p. 24, etc. "La Galleria Crespi in Milano," 1900.

WICKHOFF, F. Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1893, p. 135. Jahrbuch der Preussischen Kunstsammlungen, 1895. Heft i.

ZANETTI, A. "Varie Pitture," etc., with engravings of some fragments from the Fondaco de' Tedeschi frescoes, 1760.



GIORGIONE

CHAPTER I

GIORGIONE'S LIFE

Apart from tradition, very few ascertained facts are known to us as to Giorgione's life. The date of his birth is conjectural, there being but Vasari's unsupported testimony that he died in his thirty-fourth year. Now we know from unimpeachable sources that his death happened in October-November 1510,[1] so that, assuming Vasari's statement to be correct, Giorgione will have been born in 1477.[2]

The question of his birthplace and origin has been in great dispute. Without going into the evidence at length, we may accept with some degree of certainty the results at which recent German research has arrived.[3] Dr. Gronau's conclusion is that Giorgione was the son (or grandson) of a certain Giovanni, called Giorgione of Castelfranco, who came originally from the village of Vedelago in the march of Treviso. This Giovanni was living at Castelfranco, of which he was a citizen, in 1460, and there, probably, Giorgione his son (or grandson) was born some seventeen years later.

The tradition that the artist was a natural son of one of the great Barbarella family, and that in consequence he was called Barbarelli, is now shown to be false. This cognomen is first found in 1648, in Ridolfi's book, to which, in 1697, the picturesque addition was made that his mother was a peasant girl of Vedelago.[4] None of the earlier writers or contemporary documents ever allude to such an origin, or speak of "Barbarelli," but always of "Zorzon de Castelfrancho," "Zorzi da Castelfranco," and the like,[5]

We may take it as certain that Giorgione spent the whole of his short life in Venice and the neighbourhood. Unlike Titian, whose busy career was marked by constant journeyings and ever fresh incidents, the young Castelfrancan passed a singularly calm and uneventful life. Untroubled, apparently, by the storm and stress of the political world about him, he devoted himself with a whole-hearted simplicity to the advancement of his art. Like Leonardo, he early won fame for his skill in music, and Vasari tells us the gifted young lute-player was a welcome guest in distinguished circles. Although of humble origin, he must have possessed a singular charm of manner, and a comeliness of person calculated to find favour, particularly with the fair sex. He early found a quasi-royal friend and patroness in Caterina Cornaro, ex-Queen of Cyprus, whose portrait he painted, and whose recommendation, as I believe, secured for him important commissions in the like field. But we may leave Giorgione's art for fuller discussion in the following chapters, and only note here two outside events which were not without importance in the young artist's career.

The one was the visit paid by Leonardo to Venice in the year 1500. Vasari tells us "Giorgione had seen certain works from the hand of Leonardo, which were painted with extraordinary softness, and thrown into powerful relief, as is said, by extreme darkness of the shadows, a manner which pleased him so much that he ever after continued to imitate it, and in oil painting approached very closely to the excellence of his model."[6] This statement has been combated by Morelli, but although historical evidence is wanting that the two men ever actually met, there is nothing improbable in Vasari's account. Leonardo certainly came to Venice for a short time in 1500, and it would be perfectly natural to find the young Venetian, then in his twenty-fourth year, visiting the great Florentine, long a master of repute, and from him, or from "certain works of his," taking hints for his own practice.[7]

The second event of moment to which allusion may here be made was the great conflagration in the year 1504, when the Exchange of the German Merchants was burnt. This building, known as the Fondaco de' Tedeschi, occupying one of the finest sites on the Grand Canal, was rebuilt by order of the Signoria, and Giorgione received the commission to decorate the facade with frescoes. The work was completed by 1508, and became the most celebrated of all the artist's creations. The Fondaco still stands to-day, but, alas! a crimson stain high up on the wall is all that remains to us of these great frescoes, which were already in decay when Vasari visited Venice in 1541.

Other work of the kind—all long since perished—Giorgione undertook with success. The Soranzo Palace, the Palace of Andrea Loredano, the Casa Flangini, and elsewhere, were frescoed with various devices, or ornamented with monochrome friezes.

We know nothing of Giorgione's home life; he does not appear to have married, or to have left descendants. Vasari speaks of "his many friends whom he delighted by his admirable performance in music," and his death caused "extreme grief to his many friends to whom he was endeared by his excellent qualities." He enjoyed prosperity and good health, and was called Giorgione "as well from the character of his person as for the exaltation of his mind."[8]

He died of plague in the early winter of 1510, and was probably buried with other victims on the island of Poveglia, off Venice, where the lazar-house was situated.[9] The tradition that his bones were removed in 1638 and buried at Castelfranco in the family vault of the Barbarelli is devoid of foundation, and was invented to round off the story of his supposed connection with the family.[10]

NOTES:

[1] See Appendix, where the documents are quoted in full.

[2] Vasari gives 1478 (1477 in his first edition) and 1511 as the years of his birth and death. Crowe and Cavalcaselle, and Dr. Bode prefer to say "before 1477," a supposition which would make his precocity less phenomenal, and help to explain some chronological difficulties (see p. 66).

[3] Zorzon da Castelfranco. La sua origine, la sua morte e tomba, by Dr. Georg Gronau. Venice, 1894.

[4] Vide Repertorium fuer Kunstwissenschaft, xix. 2, p. 166. [Dr. Gronau.]

[5] It would seem, therefore, desirable to efface the name of Barbarelli from the catalogues. The National Gallery, for example, registers Giorgione's work under this name.

[6] The translation given is that of Blashfield and Hopkins's edition. Bell, 1897.

[7] M. Muentz adduces strong arguments in favour of this view (La fin de la Renaissance, p. 600).

[8] The name "Giorgione" signifies "Big George." But it seems to have been also his father's name.

[9] This visitation claimed no less than 20,000 victims.

[10] See Gronau, op. cit. Tradition has been exceptionally busy over Giorgione's affairs. The story goes that he died of grief at being betrayed by his friend and pupil, Morto da Feltre, who had robbed him of his mistress. This is now proved false by the document quoted in the Appendix.



CHAPTER II

GENERALLY ACCEPTED WORKS

Such, then, very briefly, are the facts of Giorgione's life recorded by the older biographers, or known by contemporary documents. Now let us turn to his artistic remains, the disjecta membra, out of which we may reconstruct something of the man himself; for, to those who can interpret it aright, a man's work is his best autobiography.

This is especially true in the case of an artist of Giorgione's temperament, for his expression is so peculiarly personal, so highly charged with individuality, that every product of mental activity becomes a revelation of the man himself. People like Giorgione must express themselves in certain ways, and these ways are therefore characteristic. Some people regard a work of art as something external; a great artist, they say, can vary his productions at will, he can paint in any style he chooses. But the exact contrary is the truth. The greater the artist, the less he can divest himself of his own personality; his work may vary in degree of excellence, but not in kind. The real reason, therefore, why it is impossible for certain pictures to be by Giorgione is, not that they are not good enough for him, but that they are not characteristic. I insist on this point, because in the matter of genuineness the touchstone of authenticity is so often to be looked for in an answer to the question: Is this or that characteristic? The personal equation is the all-important factor to be recognised; it is the connecting link which often unites apparently diverse phenomena, and explains what would otherwise appear to be irreconcilable.

There is an intimate relation then between the artist and his work, and, rightly interpreted, the latter can tell us much about the former.

Let us turn to Giorgione's work. Here we are brought face to face with an initial difficulty, the great difficulty, in fact, which has stood so much in the way of a more comprehensive understanding of the master, I mean, that scarcely anything of his work is authenticated. Three pictures alone have never been called in question by contending critics; outside this inner ring is more or less debatable ground, and on this wider arena the battle has raged until scarcely a shred of the painter's work has emerged unscathed. The result has been to reduce the figure of Giorgione to a shadowy myth, whose very existence, at the present rate at which negative criticism progresses, will assuredly be called in question.

If Bacon wrote Shakespeare, then Giorgione can be divided up between a dozen Venetian artists, who "painted Giorgione." Fortunately three pictures survive which refuse to be fitted in anywhere else except under "Giorgione." This is the irreducible minimum, [Greek: o anankaiotatos] Giorgione, with which we must start.

* * * * *

Of the three universally accepted pictures, first and foremost comes the Castelfranco altar-piece, according to Mr. Ruskin "one of the two most perfect pictures in existence; alone in the world as an imaginative representation of Christianity, with a monk and a soldier on either side ... "[11] This great picture was painted before 1504, when the artist was only twenty-seven years of age,[12] a fact which clearly proves that his genius must have developed early. For not even a Giorgione can produce such a masterpiece without a long antecedent course of training and accomplishment. This is not the place to inquire into the nature and character of the works which lead up to this altar-piece, for a chronological survey ought to follow, not precede, an examination of all available material; it is important, nevertheless, to bear in mind that quite ten years had been passed in active work ere Giorgione produced this masterpiece.

If no other evidence were forthcoming as to the sort of man the painter was, this one production of his would for ever stamp him as a person of exquisite feeling. There is a reserve, almost a reticence, in the way the subject is presented, which indicates a refined mind. An atmosphere of serenity pervades the scene, which conveys a sense of personal tranquillity and calm. The figures are absorbed in their own thoughts; they stand isolated apart, as though the painter wishes to intensify the mood of dreamy abstraction. Nothing disquieting disturbs the scene, which is one of profound reverie. All this points to Giorgione being a man of moods, as we say; a lyric poet, whose expression is highly charged with personal feeling, who appeals to the imagination rather than to the intellect. And so, as we might expect, landscape plays an important part in the composition; it heightens the pictorial effect, not merely by providing a picturesque background, but by enhancing the mood of serenity and solemn calm. Giorgione uses it as an instrument of expression, blending nature and human nature into happy unison. The effect of the early morning sun rising over the distant sea is of indescribable charm, and invests the scene with a poetic glamour which, as Morelli truly remarks, awakens devotional feelings. What must have been the effect when it was first painted! for even five modern restorations, under which the original work has been buried, have not succeeded in destroying the hallowing charm. To enjoy similar effects we must turn to the central Italian painters, to Perugino and Raphael; certainly in Venetian art of pre-Giorgionesque times the like cannot be found, and herein Giorgione is an innovator. Bellini, indeed, before him had studied nature and introduced landscape backgrounds into his pictures, but more for picturesqueness of setting than as an integral part of the whole; they are far less suggestive of the mood appropriate to the moment, less calculated to stir the imagination than to please the eye. Nowhere, in short, in Venetian art up to this date is a lyrical treatment of the conventional altar-piece so fully realised as in the Castelfranco Madonna.

Technically, Giorgione proclaims himself no less an innovator. The composition is on the lines of a perfect equilateral triangle, a scheme which Bellini and the older Venetian artists never adopted.[13] So simple a scheme required naturally large and spacious treatment; flat surfaces would be in place, and the draperies cast in ample folds. Dignity of bearing, and majestic sweep of dress are appropriately introduced; the colour is rich and harmonious, the preponderance of various shades of green having a soothing effect on the eye. The golden glow which doubtless once suffused the whole, has, alas! disappeared under cruel restorations, and flatness of tone has inevitably resulted, but we may still admire the play of light on horizontal surfaces, and the chiaroscuro giving solidity and relief to the figures.

An interesting link with Bellini is seen in the S. Francis, for the figure is borrowed from that master's altar-piece of S. Giobbe (now in the Venice Academy). Bellini's S. Francis had been painted seventeen or eighteen years before, and now we find Giorgione having recourse to the older master for a pictorial motive. But, as though to assert his independence, he has created in the S. Liberale a type of youthful beauty and manliness which in turn became the prototype of subsequent knightly figures. Palma Vecchio, Mareschalco, and Pennacchi all borrowed it for their own use, a proof that Giorgione's altar-piece acquired an early celebrity.[14]



Exquisite feeling is equally conspicuous in the other two works universally ascribed to Giorgione. These are the "Adrastus and Hypsipyle," in the collection of Prince Giovanelli, in Venice, and the "Aeneas, Evander, and Pallas," in the gallery at Vienna.[15]

"The Giovanelli Figures," or "The Stormy Landscape, with the Soldier and the Gipsy," as the picture has been commonly called since the days of the Anonimo, who so described it in 1530, is totally unlike anything that Venetian art of the pre-Giorgionesque era has to show. The painted myth is a new departure, the creation of Giorgione's own brain, and as such, is treated in a wholly unconventional manner. His peculiarly poetical nature here finds full scope for display, his delicacy, his refinement, his sensitiveness to the beauties of the outside world, find fitting channels through which to express themselves. With what a spirit of romance Giorgione has invested his picture! So exquisitely personal is the mood, that the subject itself has taken his biographers nearly four centuries to decipher! For the artist, it must be noted, does not attempt to illustrate a passage of an ancient writer; very probably, nay, almost certainly, he had never read the Thebaid of Statius, whence comes the story of Adrastus and Hypsipyle; the subject would have been suggested to him by some friend, a student of the Classics, and Giorgione thereupon dressed the old Greek myth in Venetian garb, just as Statius had done in the Latin.[16] The story is known to us only at second hand, and we are at liberty to choose Giorgione's version in preference to that of the Roman poet; each is an independent translation of a common original, and certainly Giorgione's is not the less poetical. He has created a painted lyric which is not an illustration of, but a parallel presentation to the written poem of Statius.

Technically, the workmanship points to an earlier period than the Castelfranco Madonna, and there is an exuberance of fancy which points to a youthful origin. The figures are of slight and graceful build, the composition easy and unstudied, with a tendency to adopt a triangular arrangement in the grouping, the apex being formed by the storm scene, to which the eye thus naturally reverts. The figures and the landscape are brought into close relation by this subtle scheme, and the picture becomes, not figures with landscape background, but landscape with figures.

The reproduction unduly exaggerates the contrasts of light and shade, and conveys little of the mellowness and richness of atmospheric effect which characterise the original. Unlike the brilliance of colouring in the Castelfranco picture, dark reds, browns, and greens here give a sombre tone which is accentuated by the dullness of surface due to old varnishes.



"The Three Philosophers," or "The Chaldean Sages," as the picture at Vienna has long been strangely named, shows the artist again treating a classical story in his own fantastic way. Virgil has enshrined in verse the legend of the arrival of the Trojan Aeneas in Italy,[17] and Giorgione depicts the moment when Evander, the aged seer-king, and his son Pallas point out to the wanderer the site of the future Capitol. Again we find the same poetical presentation, not representation, of a legendary subject, again the same feeling for the beauties of nature. How Giorgione has revelled in the glories of the setting sun, the long shadows of the evening twilight, the tall-stemmed trees, the moss-grown rock! The figures are but a pretext, we feel, for an idyllic scene, where the story is subordinated to the expression of sensuous charm.

This work was seen by the Anonimo in 1525, in the house of Taddeo Contarini at Venice. It was then believed to have been completed by Sebastiano del Piombo, Giorgione's pupil. If so,—and there is no valid reason to doubt the statement,—Giorgione left unfinished a picture on which he was at work some years before his death, for the style clearly indicates that the artist had not yet reached the maturity of his later period. The figures still recall those of Bellini, the modelling is close and careful, the forms compact, and reminiscent of the quattrocento. It is noticeable that the type of the Pallas is identical with that of S. John Baptist in Sebastiano's early altar-piece in S. Giovanni Crisostomo at Venice, but it would be unwise to dramatise on the share (if any) which the pupil had in completing the work of his master. The credit of invention must indubitably rest with Giorgione, but the damage which the picture has sustained through neglect and repainting in years gone by, renders certainty of discrimination between the two hands a matter of impossibility.

The colouring is rich and varied; the orange horizon, the distant blue hill, and the pale, clear evening light, with violet-tinted clouds, give a wonderful depth behind the dark tree-trunks. The effect of the delicate leaves and feathery trees at the edge of the rock, relieved against the pale sky, is superb. A spirit of solemnity broods over the scene, fit feeling at so eventful a moment in the history of the past.

The composition, which looks so unstudied, is really arranged on the usual triangular basis. The group of figures on the right is balanced on the left by the great rock—the future Capitol—(which is thus brought prominently into notice), and the landscape background again forms the apex. The added depth and feeling for space shows how Giorgione had learnt to compose in three dimensions, the technical advance over the "Adrastus and Hypsipyle" indicating a period subsequent to that picture, though probably anterior to the Castelfranco altar-piece.

* * * * *

We have now taken the three universally accepted Giorgiones; how are we to proceed in our investigations? The simplest course will be to take the pictures acknowledged by those modern writers who have devoted most study to the question, and examine them in the light of the results to which we have attained. Those writers are Crowe and Cavalcaselle, who published their account of Giorgione in 1871, and Morelli, who wrote in 1877. Now it is notorious that the results at which these critics arrived are often widely divergent, but a great deal too much has been made of the differences and not enough of the points of agreement. As a matter of fact, Morelli only questions three of the thirteen Giorgiones accepted definitely by Crowe and Cavalcaselle. Leaving these three aside for the moment, we may take the remaining ten (three of which we have already examined), and after deducting three others in English collections to which Morelli does not specifically refer, we are left with four more pictures on which these rival authorities are agreed.



These are the two small works in the Uffizi, representing the "Judgment of Solomon" and the "Trial of Moses," the "Knight of Malta," also in the Uffizi, and the "Christ bearing the Cross," till lately in the Casa Loschi at Vicenza, and now belonging to Mrs. Gardner of Boston, U.S.A.

The two small companion pictures in the Uffizi, The "Judgment of Solomon" and the "Trial of Moses," or "Ordeal by Fire," as it is also called, connect in style closely with the "Adrastus and Hypsipyle." They are conceived in the same romantic strain, and carried out with scarcely less brilliance and charm. The story, as in the previous pictures, is not insisted upon; the biblical episode and the rabbinical legend are treated in the same fantastic way as the classic myth. Giovanni Bellini had first introduced this lyric conception in his treatment of the mediaeval allegory, as we see it in his picture, also in the Uffizi, hanging near the Giorgiones; all three works were originally together in the Medici residence of Poggio Imperiale, and there can be little doubt are intimately related in origin to one another. Bellini's latest biographer, Mr. Roger Fry, places this Allegory about the years 1486-8, a date which points to a very early origin for the other two.[18] For it is extremely likely that the young Giorgione was inspired by his master's example, and that he may have produced his companion pieces as early as 1493. With this deduction Morelli is in accord: "In character they belong to the fifteenth century, and may have been painted by Giorgione in his sixteenth or eighteenth year."[19]

Here, then, is a clue to the young artist's earliest predilections. He fastens eagerly upon that phase of Bellini's art to which his own poetic temperament most readily responds. But he goes a step further than his master. He takes his subjects not from mediaeval romances, but from the Bible or rabbinical writings, and actually interprets them also in this new and unorthodox way. So bold a departure from traditional usage proves the independence and originality of the young painter. These two little pictures thus become historically the first-fruits of the neo-pagan spirit which was gradually supplanting the older ecclesiastical thought, and Giorgione, once having cast conventionalism aside, readily turns to classical mythology to find subjects for the free play of fancy. The "Adrastus and Hypsipyle" thus follows naturally upon "The Judgment of Solomon" and "Trial of Moses," and the pages of Virgil, Ovid, Statius, and Valerius Flaccus—all treasure-houses of golden legend—yield subjects suggestive of romance. The titles of some of these poesie, as they were called, are preserved in the pages of Ridolfi.[20]



The tall and slender figures, the attitudes, and the general mise-en-scene vividly recall the earlier style of Carpaccio, who was at this very time composing his delightful fairy tales of the "Legend of S. Ursula."[21] Common to both painters is a gaiety and love of beauty and colour. There is also in both a freedom and ease, even a homeliness of conception, which distinguishes their work from the pageant pictures of Gentile Bellini, whose "Corpus Christi Procession" was produced two or three years later, in 1496.[21] But Giorgione's art is instinct with a lyrical fancy all his own, the story is subordinated to the mood of the moment, and he is much more concerned with the beauty of the scene than with its dramatic import.

The repainted condition of "The Judgment of Solomon" has led some good judges to pronounce it a copy. It certainly lacks the delicacy that distinguishes its companion piece, but may we not—with Crowe and Cavalcaselle and Morelli—register it rather as a much defaced original?

So far as we have at present examined Giorgione's pictures, the trend of thought they display has been mostly in the direction of secular subjects. The two early examples just described show that even where the subject is quasi-religious, the revolutionary spirit made itself felt; but it would be perfectly natural to find the young artist also following his master Giambellini in the painting of strictly sacred subjects. No better example could be found than the "Christ bearing the Cross," the small work which has recently left Italy for America. We are told by the Anonimo that there was in his day (1525) a picture by Bellini of this subject, and it is remarkable that four separate versions exist to-day which, without being copies of one another, are so closely related that the existence of a common original is a legitimate inference. That this was by Bellini is more than probable, for the different versions are clearly by different painters of his school. By far the finest is the example which Crowe and Cavalcaselle and Morelli unhesitatingly ascribe to the young Giorgione; this version is, however, considered by Signor Venturi inferior to the one now belonging to Count Lanskeronski in Vienna.[22] Others who, like the writer, have seen both works, agree with the older view, and regard the latter version, like the others at Berlin and Rovigo, as a contemporary repetition of Bellini's lost original.[23]



Characteristic of Giorgione is the abstract thought, the dreaminess of look, the almost furtive glance. The minuteness of finish reminds us of Antonello, and the turn of the head suggests several of the latter's portraits. The delicacy with which the features are modelled, the high forehead, and the lighting of the face are points to be noted, as we shall find the same characteristics elsewhere.

[Uffizi Gallery, Florence

THE KNIGHT OF MALTA]

The "Knight of Malta," in the Uffizi, is a more mature work, and reveals Giorgione to us as a portrait painter of remarkable power. The conception is dignified, the expression resolute, yet tempered by that look of abstract thought which the painter reads into the faces of his sitters. The hair parted in the middle, and brought down low at the sides of the forehead, was peculiarly affected by the Venetian gentlemen of the day, and this style seems to have particularly pleased Giorgione, who introduces it in many other pictures besides portraits. The oval of the face, which is strongly lighted, is also characteristic. This work shows no direct connection with Bellini's portraiture, but far more with that which we are accustomed to associate with the names of Titian and Palma. It dates probably from the early part of the sixteenth century, at a time when Giorgione was breaking with the older tradition which had strictly limited portraiture to the representation of the head only, or at most to the bust. The hand is here introduced, though Giorgione feels still compelled to account for its presence by introducing a rosary of large beads. In later years, as we shall see, the expressiveness of the human hand per se will be recognised; but Giorgione already feels its significance in portraiture, and there is not one of his portraits which does not show this.[24]

The list of Giorgione's works now numbers seven; the next three to be discussed are those that Crowe and Cavalcaselle added on their own account, but about which Morelli expressed no opinion. Two are in English private collections, the third in the National Gallery. This is the small "Knight in Armour," said to be a study for the figure of S. Liberale in the Castelfranco altar-piece. The main difference is that in the latter the warrior wears his helmet, whilst in the National Gallery example he is bareheaded. By some this little figure is believed to be a copy, or repetition with variations, of Giorgione's original, but it must honestly be confessed that absolutely no proof is forthcoming in support of this view. The quality of this fragment is unquestionable, and its very divergence from the Castelfranco figure is in its favour. It would perhaps be unsafe to dogmatise in a case where the material is so slight, but until its genuineness can be disproved by indisputable evidence, the claim to authenticity put forward in the National Gallery catalogue, following Crowe and Cavalcaselle's view, must be allowed.



The two remaining pictures definitely placed by Crowe and Cavalcaselle among the authentic productions of Giorgione are the "Adoration of the Shepherds," belonging to Mr. Wentworth Beaumont, and the "Judgment of Solomon," in the possession of Mr. Ralph Bankes at Kingston Lacy, Dorsetshire. The former (of which an inferior replica with differences of landscape exists in the Vienna Gallery) is one of the most poetically conceived representations of this familiar subject which exists. The actual group of figures forms but an episode in a landscape of the most entrancing beauty, lighted by the rising sun, and wrapped in a soft atmospheric haze. The landscapes in the two little Uffizi pictures are immediately suggested, yet the quality of painting is here far superior, and is much closer in its rendering of atmospheric effects to the "Adrastus and Hypsipyle." The figures, on the other hand, are weak, very unequal in size, and feebly expressed, except the Madonna, who has charm. The lights and shadows are treated in a masterly way, and contrasts of gloom and sunlight enhance the solemnity of the scene. The general tone is rich and full of subdued colour.

Now if the name of Giorgione be denied this "Nativity," to which of the followers of Bellini are we to assign it?—for the work is clearly of Bellinesque stamp. The name of Catena has been proposed, but is now no longer seriously supported.[25] If for no other reason, the colour scheme is sufficient to exclude this able artist, and, versatile as he undoubtedly was, it may be questioned whether he ever could have attained to the mellowness and glow which suffuse this picture. The latest view enunciated[26] is that "we are in the presence of a painter as yet anonymous, whom in German fashion we might provisionally name 'The Master of the Beaumont "Adoration."'" Now this system of labelling certain groups of paintings showing common characteristics is all very well in cases where the art history of a particular school or period is wrapt in obscurity, and where few, if any, names have come down to us, but in the present instance it is singularly inappropriate. To begin with, this anonymous painter is the author, so it is believed, of only three works, this "Adoration," the "Epiphany," in the National Gallery, No. 1160, and a small "Holy Family," belonging to Mr. Robert Benson in London, for all three works are universally admitted to be by the same hand. Next, this anonymous painter must have been a singularly refined and poetical artist, a master of brilliant colour, and an accomplished chiaroscurist. Truly a deus ex machina! Next you have to find a vacancy for such a phenomenon in the already crowded lists of Bellini's pupils and followers, as if there were not more names than enough already to fully account for every Bellinesque production.[27] No, this is no question of compromise, of the dragging to light some hitherto unknown genius whose identity has long been merged in that of bigger men, but it is the recognition of the fact that the greater comprises the less. Admitting, as we may, that these three pictures are inferior in "depth, significance, cohesion, and poetry" (!) to the Castelfranco "Madonna," there is nothing to show that they are not characteristic of Giorgione, that they do not form part of a consistent whole. As a matter of fact, this "Adoration of the Shepherds" connects very well with the early poesie already discussed. There is some opposition between the sacred theme and Giorgione's natural dislike to tell a mere story; but he has had to conform to traditional methods of representation, and the feeling of restraint is felt in the awkward drawing of the figures, and their uneven execution. That he felt dissatisfied with this portion of the work, the drawing at Windsor plainly shows, for the figures appear here in a different position, as if he had tried to recast his scheme.

Some may object that the drawing of the shepherd is atrocious, and that the figures are of disproportionate sizes. Such failings, they say, cannot be laid to a great master's charge. This is an appeal to the old argument that it is not good enough, whereas the true test lies in the question, Is it characteristic? Of Giorgione it certainly is a characteristic to treat each figure in a composition more or less by itself; he isolates them, and this conception is often emphasised by an outward disparity of size. The relative disproportion of the figures in the Castelfranco altar-piece, and of those of Aeneas and Evander in the Vienna picture can hardly be denied, yet no one has ever pleaded this as a bar to their authenticity. Instances of this want of cohesion, both in conception and execution, between the various figures in a scene could be multiplied in Giorgione's work, no more striking instance being found than in the great undertaking he left unfinished—the large "Judgment of Solomon," next to be discussed. Moreover, eccentricities of drawing are not uncommon in his work, as a reference to the "Adrastus and Hypsipyle," and later works, like the "Fete Champetre" (of the Louvre), will show.

I have no hesitation, therefore, in recognising this "Adoration of the Shepherds" as a genuine work of Giorgione, and, moreover, it appears to be the masterpiece of that early period when Bellini's influence was still strong upon him.

The Vienna replica, I believe, was also executed by Giorgione himself. Until recent times, when an all too rigorous criticism condemned it to be merely a piece of the "Venezianische Schule um 1500" (which is correct as far as it goes),[28] it bore Giorgione's name, and is so recorded in an inventory of the year 1659. It differs from the Beaumont version chiefly in its colouring, which is silvery and of delicate tones. It lacks the rich glow, and has little of that mysterious glamour which is so subtly attractive in the former. The landscape is also different. We must be on our guard, therefore, against the view that it is merely a copy; differences of detail, especially in the landscape, show that it is a parallel work, or a replica. Now I believe that these two versions of the "Nativity" are the two pictures of "La Notte," by Giorgione, to which we have allusion in a contemporary document.[29] The description, "Una Notte," obviously means what we term "A Nativity" (Correggio's "Heilige Nacht" at Dresden is a familiar instance of the same usage), and the difference in quality between the two versions is significantly mentioned. It seems that Isabella d'Este, the celebrated Marchioness of Mantua, had commissioned one of her agents in Venice to procure for her gallery a picture by Giorgione. The agent writes to his royal mistress and tells her (October 1510) that the artist is just dead, and that no such picture as she describes—viz. "Una Nocte"[A]—is to be found among his effects. However, he goes on, Giorgione did paint two such pictures, but these were not for sale, as they belonged to two private owners who would not part with them. One of these pictures was of better design and more highly finished than the other, the latter being, in his opinion, not perfect enough for the royal collection. He regrets accordingly that he is unable to obtain the picture which the Marchioness requires.

If my conjecture be right, we have in the Beaumont and Vienna "Nativities" the only two pictures of Giorgione to which allusion is made in an absolutely contemporary document, and they thus become authenticated material with which to start a study of the master.

The next picture, which Crowe and Cavalcaselle accept without question, is the large "Judgment of Solomon," belonging to Mr. Bankes at Kingston Lacy. The scene is a remarkable one, conceived in an absolutely unique way; Solomon is here posed as a Roman Praetor giving judgment in the Atrium, supported on each side by onlookers attired in fanciful costume of the Venetian period, or suggestive of classical models. It is the strangest possible medley of the Bellinesque and the antique, knit together by harmonious colouring and a clever grouping of figures in a triangular design. As an interpretation of a dramatic scene it is singularly ineffective, partly because it is unfinished, some of the elements of the tragedy being entirely wanting, partly because of an obvious stageyness in the action of the figures taking part in the scene. There is a want of dramatic unity in the whole; the figures are introduced in an accidental way, and their relative proportion is not accurately preserved; the executioner, for example, is head and shoulders larger than anyone else, whilst the two figures standing on the steps of Solomon's throne are in marked contrast. The one with the shield, on the left, is as monumental as one of Bramante's creations, the old gentleman with the beard, on the right, is mincing and has no shoulders. Solomon himself appears as a young man of dark complexion, in an attitude of self-contained determination; the way his hands rest on the sides of the throne is very expressive. His drapery is cast in curious folds of a zig-zag character, following the lines of the composition, whilst the dresses of the other personages fall in broad masses to the ground. The light and shade are cleverly handled, and the spaciousness of the scene is enhanced by the rows of columns and the apse of mosaics behind Solomon's head. The painter was clearly versed in the laws of perspective, and indicates depth inwards by placing the figures behind one another on a tesselated pavement or on the receding steps of the throne, giving at the same time a sense of atmospheric space between one figure and another. The colour scheme is delightful, full-toned orange and red alternating with pale blues, olive green, and delicate pink, the contrasts so subdued by a clever balance of light and shade as to harmonise the whole in a delicate silvery key.



The unfinished figure of the executioner evidently caused the artist much trouble, for pentimenti are frequent, and other outlines can be distinctly traced through the nude body. The effect of this clumsy figure is far from satisfactory; the limbs are not articulated distinctly; moreover, the balance of the whole composition is seriously threatened by the tragedy being enacted at the side instead of in the middle. The artist appears to have felt this difficulty so much that he stopped short at this point; at any rate, the living child remains unrepresented, nor is there any second child such as is required to illustrate the story. It looks as though the scheme was not carefully worked out before commencing, and that the artist found himself in difficulties at the last, when he had to introduce the dramatic motive, which apparently was not to his taste.

Now, all this fits in exactly with what we know of Giorgione's temperament; lyrical by nature, he would shrink from handling a great dramatic scene, and if such a task were imposed upon him he would naturally treat three-fourths of the subject in his own fantastic way, and do his best to illustrate the action required in the remaining part. The result would be (what might be expected) forced or stagey, and the action rhetorical, and that is exactly what has happened in this "Judgment of Solomon."

It is a natural inference that, supposing Giorgione to be the painter, he would never have selected such a subject of his own free will to be treated, as this is, on so large a scale. There may be, therefore, something in the suggestion which Crowe and Cavalcaselle make that this may be the large canvas ordered of Giorgione for the audience chamber of the Council, "for which purpose," they add, "the advances made to him in the summer of 1507 and in January 1508 show that the work he had undertaken was of the highest consequence."[30]

Be this as it may, the picture was in Venice, in the Casa Grimani di Santo Ermagora,[31] in Ridolfi's day (1646), and that writer specially mentions the unfinished executioner. It passed later into the Marescalchi Gallery at Bologna, where it was seen by Lord Byron (1820), and purchased at his suggestion by his friend Mr. Bankes, in whose family it still remains.[32]

It will be gathered from what I have written that Giorgione and no other is, in my opinion, the author of this remarkable work. Certain of the figures are reminiscent of those by him elsewhere—e.g. the old man with the beard is like the Evander in the Vienna picture, the young man next the executioner resembles the Adrastus in the Giovanelli figures, and the young man stooping forward next to Solomon recurs in the "Three Ages," in the Pitti, which Morelli considered to be by Giorgione. The most obvious resemblances, however, are to be found in the Glasgow "Adulteress before Christ," a work which several modern critics assign to Cariani, although Dr. Bode, Sir Walter Armstrong, and others, maintain it to be a real Giorgione. Consistently enough, those who believe in Cariani's authorship in the one case, assert it in the other,[33] and as consistently I hold that both are by Giorgione. It is conceivable that Cariani may have copied Giorgione's types and attitudes, but it is inconceivable to me that he can have so entirely assimilated Giorgione's temperament to which this "Judgment of Solomon" so eloquently witnesses. Moreover, let no one say that Cariani executed what Giorgione designed, for, in spite of its imperfect condition, the technique reveals a painter groping his way as he works, altering contours, and making corrections with his brush; in fact, it has all the spontaneity which characterises an original creation.

The date of its execution may well have been 1507-8, perhaps even earlier; at any rate, we must not argue from its unfinished state that the painter's death prevented completion, for the style is not that of Giorgione's last works. Rather must we conclude that, like the "Aeneas and Evander," and several other pictures yet to be mentioned, Giorgione stopped short at his work, unwilling to labour at an uncongenial task (as, perhaps, in the present case), or from some feeling of dissatisfaction at the result, nay, even despair of ever realising his poetical conceptions.

To this important trait in Giorgione's character further reference will be made when all the available material has been examined; suffice it for the moment that this "Judgment of Solomon" is to me a most typical example of the great artist's work, a revelation alike of his weaknesses as of his powers.

Following our method of investigation we will next consider the pictures which Morelli accredits to Giorgione over and above the seven already discussed, wherein he concurs with Crowe and Cavalcaselle. These are twelve in number, and include some of the master's finest works, some of them unknown to the older authorities, or, at any rate, unrecorded by them. Here, therefore, the opinions of Crowe and Cavalcaselle are not of so much weight, so it will be necessary to see how far Morelli's views have been confirmed by later writers during the last twenty years.

Three portraits figure in Morelli's list—one at Berlin, one at Buda-Pesth, and one in the Borghese Gallery at Rome.



First, as to the Berlin "Portrait of a Young Man," which, when Morelli wrote, belonged to Dr. Richter, and was afterwards acquired for the Berlin Gallery. "In it we have one of those rare portraits such as only Giorgione, and occasionally Titian, were capable of producing, highly suggestive, and exercising over the spectator an irresistible fascination."[34] Such are the great critic's enthusiastic words, and no one surely to-day would be found to gainsay them. We may note the characteristic treatment of the hair, the thoughtful look in the eyes, and the strong light on the face in contrast to the dark frame of hair, points which this portrait shares in common with the "Knight of Malta" in the Uffizi. Particularly to be noticed, however, is the parapet on which the fingers of one hand are visible, and the mysterious letters VV.[35] Allusion has already been made to the growing practice in Venetian art of introducing the hand as a significant feature in portrait painting, and here we get the earliest indications of this tendency in Giorgione; for this portrait certainly ante-dates the "Knight of Malta." It would seem to have been painted quite early in the last decade of the fifteenth century, when Bellini's art would still be the predominant influence over the young artist.

It is but a step onward to the next portrait, that of a young man, in the Gallery at Buda-Pesth, but the supreme distinction which marks this wonderful head stamps it as a masterpiece of portraiture. Venetian art has nothing finer to show, whether for its interpretative qualities, or for the subtlety of its execution. Truly Giorgione has here foreshadowed Velasquez, whose silveriness of tone is curiously anticipated; yet the true Giorgionesque quality of magic is felt in a way that the impersonal Spaniard never realised. Only those who have seen the original can know of the wonderful atmospheric background, with sky, clouds, and hill-tops just visible. The reproduction, alas! gives no hint of all this. Nor can one appreciate the superb painting of the black quilted dress, with its gold braid, or of the shining black hair, confined in a brown net. The artist must have been in keen sympathy with this melancholy figure, for the expression is so intense that, as Morelli says, "he seems about to confide to us the secret of his life."[36]

Several points claim our attention. First, the parapet has an almost illegible inscription, ANTONIVS. BROKARDVS. M[=ARI]I.F, presumably the young man's name. Further, we may notice the recurrence of the letter V on a black device, and there is a second curious black tablet, which, however, has nothing on it. Between the two is a circle with a device of three heads in one surrounded by a garland of flowers. No satisfactory explanation of these symbols can be offered, but if the second black tablet had originally another V, we might conclude that these letters were in some mysterious way connected with Giorgione, as they appear also on the Berlin portrait. I shall be able to show that another instance of this double V exists on yet another portrait by Giorgione.[37]

Finally, the expressiveness of the human hand is here fully realised. This feature alone points to a later date than the "Knight of Malta," and considerably after the still earlier Berlin portrait. The consummate mastery of technique, moreover, indicates that Giorgione has here reached full maturity, so that it would be safe to place this portrait about the year 1508.



Signor Venturi ("La Galleria Crespi") ascribes this portrait to Licinio. This is one of those inexplicable perversions of judgment to which even the best critics are at times liable. In L'Arte, 1900, p. 24, the same writer mentions that a certain Antonio Broccardo, son of Marino, made his will in 1527, and that the same name occurs among those who frequented the University of Bologna in 1525. There is nothing to prevent Giorgione having painted this man's portrait when younger.



The third portrait in Morelli's list has not had the same friendly reception at the hands of later critics as the preceding two have had. This is the "Portrait of a Lady" in the Borghese Gallery at Rome, whose discovery by Morelli is so graphically described in a well-known passage.[38] And in truth it must be confessed that the authorship of this portrait is not at first sight quite so evident as in the other cases; nevertheless I am firmly convinced that Morelli saw further than his critics, and that his intuitive judgment was in this instance perfectly correct.[39] The simplicity of conception, the intensity of expression, the pose of the figure alike proclaim the master, whose characteristic touch is to be seen in the stone ledge, the fancy head-dress, the arrangement of hair, and the modelling of the features. The presence of the hands is characteristically explained by the handkerchief stretched tight between them, the action being expressive of suppressed excitement: "She stands at a window ... gazing out with a dreamy, yearning expression, as if seeking to descry one whom she awaits."

Licinio, whose name has been proposed as the painter, did indeed follow out this particular vein of Giorgione's portraiture, so that "Style of Licinio" is not an altogether inapt attribution; but there is just that difference of quality between the one man's work and the other, which distinguishes any great man from his followers, whether in literature or in art. How near (and yet how far!) Licinio came to his great prototype is best seen in Lady Ashburton's "Portrait of a Young Man,"[40] but that he could have produced the Borghese "Lady" presupposes qualities he never possessed. "To Giorgione alone was it given to produce portraits of such astonishing simplicity, yet so deeply significant, and capable, by their mystic charm, of appealing to our imagination in the highest degree."[41]

The actual condition of this portrait is highly unsatisfactory, and is adduced by some as a reason for condemning it. Yet the spirit of the master seems still to breathe through the ruin, and to justify Morelli's ascription, if not the enthusiastic language in which he writes.



With the fourth addition on Morelli's list we pass into a totally different sphere of art—the decoration of cassoni, and other pieces of furniture. We have seen Giorgione at work on legendary stories or classic myths, creating out of these materials pages of beauty and romance in the form of easel paintings, and now we have the same thing as applied art—that is, art used for purely decorative purposes. The "Apollo and Daphne" in the Seminario at Venice was probably a panel of a cassone; but although intended for so humble a place, it is instinct with rare poetic feeling and beauty. Unfortunately it is in such a bad state that little remains of the original work, and Giorgione's touch is scarcely to be recognised in the damaged parts. Nevertheless, his spirit breathes amidst the ruin, and modern critics have recognised the justice of Morelli's view, rather than that of Crowe and Cavalcaselle, who suggested Schiavone as the "author."[42] And, indeed, a comparison with the "Adrastus and Hypsipyle" is enough to show a common origin, although, as we might expect, the same consummate skill is scarcely to be found in the cassone panel as in the easel picture. There is a rare daintiness, however, in these graceful figures, so essentially Giorgionesque in their fanciful presentation, the young Apollo, a lovely, fair-haired boy, pursuing a maiden with flowing tresses, whose identity with Daphne is only to be recognised by the laurel springing from her fingers. The story is but an episode in a sylvan scene, where other figures, in quaint costumes, seem to be leading an idyllic existence, untroubled by the cares of life, and utterly unconcerned at the strange event passing before their eyes.

From the "Apollo and Daphne" it is an easy transition to the "Venus," that great discovery which we owe to Morelli, and now universally recognised by modern critics. The one point on which Morelli did not, perhaps, lay sufficient stress, is the co-operation in this work of Titian with Giorgione, for here we have an additional proof that the latter left some of his work unfinished. It is a fair inference that Titian completed the Cupid (now removed), and that he had a hand in finishing the landscape; the Anonimo, indeed, states as much, and Ridolfi confirms it, and this view is officially adopted in the latest edition of the Dresden Catalogue. The style points to Giorgione's maturity, though scarcely to the last years of his life; for, in spite of the freedom and breadth of treatment in the landscape, there is a restraint in the figure, and a delicacy of form which points to a period preceding, rather than contemporary with, the Louvre "Concert" and kindred works, where the forms become fuller and rounder, and the feeling more exuberant.

It would be mere repetition, after all that has been written on the Dresden "Venus," to enlarge on the qualities of refinement and grace which characterise the fair form of the sleeping goddess. One need but compare it with Titian's representations of the same subject, and still more with Palma's versions at Dresden and Cambridge, or with Cariani's "Venus" at Hampton Court, to see the classic purity of form, the ideal loveliness of Giorgione's goddess.[43] It is no mere accident that she alone is sleeping, whilst they solicit attention. Giorgione's conception is characteristic in that he endeavours to avoid any touch of realism abhorrent to his nature, which was far more sensitive than that of Palma, Cariani, or even Titian.



The extraordinary beauty and subtlety of the master's "line" is admirably shown. He has deliberately forgone anatomical precision in order to accentuate artistic effect. The splendour of curve, the beauty of unbroken contour, the rhythm and balance of composition is attained at a cost of academic correctness; but the long-drawn horizontal lines heighten the sense of repose, and the eye is soothed by the sinuous undulations of landscape and figure. The artistic effect is further enhanced by the relief of exquisite flesh tones against the rich crimson drapery, and although the atmospheric glow has been sadly destroyed by abrasion and repainting, we may still feel something of the magic charm which Giorgione knew so well how to impart.

This "Venus" is the prototype of all other Venetian versions; it is in painting what the "Aphrodite" of Praxiteles was in sculpture, a perfect creation of a master mind.

Scarcely less wonderful than the "Venus," and even surpassing it in solemn grandeur of conception, is the "Judith" at St. Petersburg. Morelli himself had never seen the original, and includes it in his list with the reservation that it might be an old copy after Giorgione, and not the original. It would be presumptuous for anyone not familiar with the picture to decide the point, but I have no hesitation in following the judgment of two competent modern critics, both of whom have recently visited St. Petersburg, and both of whom have decided unhesitatingly in favour of its being an original by Giorgione. Dr. Harck has written enthusiastically of its beauty. "Once seen," he says, "it can never be forgotten; the same mystic charm, so characteristic of the other great works of Giorgione, pervades it; ... it bears on the face of it the stamp of a great master."[44] Even more decisive is the verdict of Mr. Claude Phillips.[45] "All doubts," he says, "vanish like sun-drawn mist in the presence of the work itself; the first glance carries with it conviction, swift and permanent. In no extant Giorgione is the golden glow so well preserved, in none does the mysterious glamour from which the world has never shaken itself free, assert itself in more irresistible fashion.... The colouring is not so much Giorgionesque as Giorgione's own—a widely different thing.... Wonderful touches which the imitative Giorgionesque painter would not have thought of are the girdle, a mauve-purple now, with a sharply emphasised golden fringe, and the sapphire-blue jewel in the brooch. Triumphs of execution, too, but not in the broad style of Venetian art in its fullest expansion, are the gleaming sword held in so dainty and feminine a fashion, and the flowers which enamel the ground at the feet of the Jewish heroine." This "Judith," after passing for many years under the names of Raphael and Moretto,[46] is now officially recognised as Giorgione's work, an identification first made by the late Herr Penther, the keeper of the Vienna Academy, whom Morelli quotes.

The conception is wholly Giorgionesque, the mood one of calm contemplation, as this lovely figure stands lost in reverie, with eyes cast down, gazing on the head on which her foot is lightly laid. The head and sword proclaim her story, they are symbols of her mission, else she had been taken for an embodiment of feminine modesty and gentle submissiveness.[47]



Characteristic of the master is the introduction of the great tree-trunk, conveying a sense of grandeur and solemn mystery to the scene; characteristic, too, is the distant landscape, the splendid glow of which evokes special praise from the writers just mentioned. Again we find the parapet, or ledge, with its flat surface on which the play of light can be caught, and again the same curious folds, broken and crumpled, such as are seen on Solomon's robe in the Kingston Lacy picture, and somewhat less emphatically in the Castelfranco "Madonna."

Consistent, moreover, with that weakness we have already noticed elsewhere, is the design of the leg and foot, the drawing of which is far from impeccable. That the execution in this respect is not equal to the supreme conception of the whole, is no valid reason for the belief that this "Judith" is only a copy of a lost original, a belief that could apparently only be held by those who have never stood before the picture itself.[48] But even in the reproduction this "Judith" stands confessed as the most impressive of all Giorgione's single figures, and it may well rank as the masterpiece of the earlier period immediately preceding the Castelfranco picture of about 1504, to which in style it closely approximates.

The next picture on Morelli's list is the "Fete Champetre" of the Louvre, or, as it is often called, the "Concert." This lovely "Pastoral Symphony" (which appears to me a more suitable English title) is by no means universally regarded as a creation of Giorgione's hand and brain, and several modern critics have been at pains to show that Campagnola, or some other Venetian imitator of the great master, really produced it.[49] In this endeavour Crowe and Cavalcaselle led the way by suggesting the author was probably an imitator of Sebastiano del Piombo. But all this must surely seem to be heresy when we stand before the picture itself, thrilled by the gorgeousness of its colour, by the richness of the paradise" in which the air is balmy, and the landscape ever green; where life is a pastime, and music the only labour; where groves are interspersed with meadows and fountains; where nymphs sit playfully on the grass, or drink at cool springs."[50] Was ever such a gorgeous idyll? In the whole range of painted poetry can the like be found?



Yet let us be more precise in our analysis. Granted that the scene is one eminently adapted to Giorgione's poetic temperament, is the execution analogous to that which we have found in the preceding examples? No one will deny, I suppose, that there is a difference between the intensely refined forms of the Venus, or the earlier Hypsipyle, or the Daphne, and the coarser nudes in the Louvre picture. No one will deny a certain carelessness marks the delineation of form, no one will gainsay a frankly sensuous charm pervades the scene, a feeling which seems at first sight inconsistent with that reticence and modesty so conspicuous elsewhere. Yet I think all this is perfectly explicable on the basis of natural evolution. Exuberance of feeling is the logical outcome of a lifetime spent in an atmosphere of lyrical thought, and certainly Giorgione was not the sort of man to control those natural impulses, which grew stronger with advancing years. Both traditions of his death point in this direction; and, unless I am mistaken, the quality of his art, as well as its character, reflects this tendency. In his later years, 1508-10, he attains indeed a magnificence and splendour which dazzles the eye, but it is at the cost of that feeling of restraint which gives the earlier work such exquisite charm. In such a work as the Louvre "Concert," Giorgio has become Giorgione; he is riper in experience and richer in feeling, and his art assumes a corresponding exuberance of style, his forms become larger, his execution grows freer. Nay, more, that strain of carelessness is not wanting which so commonly accompanies such evolutions of character. And so this "Pastoral Symphony" becomes a characteristic production—that is, one which a man of Giorgione's temperament would naturally produce in the course of his developing. Peculiar, however, to an artist of genius is the subtlety of composition, which is held together by invisible threads, for nowhere else, perhaps, has Giorgione shown a greater mastery of line. The diagonal line running from behind the nude figure on the left down to the foot so cunningly extended of the seated youth, is beautifully balanced by the line which is formed by the seated figure of the woman. The artist has deliberately emphasised this line by the curious posture of the legs. The figure, indeed, does not sit at all, but the balance of the composition is the better assured. What exquisite curves the standing woman presents! how cleverly the drapery continues the beautiful line, which Giorgione takes care not to break by placing the left leg and foot out of sight. How marvellously expressive, nay, how inevitable is the hand of the youth who is playing. Surely neither Campagnola nor any other second-rate artist was capable of such things!



The eighth picture cited by Morelli as, in his opinion, a genuine Giorgione, is the so-called "Three Ages of Man," in the Pitti at Florence—a damaged picture, but parts of which, as he says, "are still so splendid and so thoroughly Giorgionesque that I venture to ascribe it without hesitation to Giorgione."[51] The three figures are grouped naturally, and are probably portraits from life. The youth in the centre we have already met in the Kingston Lacy "Judgment of Solomon"; the man on the right recurs in the "Family Concert" at Hampton Court, and is strangely like the S. Maurice in the signed altar-piece at Berlin by Luzzi da Feltre.[52] But like though they be in type, in quality the heads in the "Three Ages" are immensely superior to those in the Berlin picture. The same models may well have served Giorgione and his friend and pupil Luzzi, or, as he is generally called, Morto da Feltre. A recent study of the few authenticated works by this feeble artist still at Feltre, his native place, forces me to dissent from the opinion that the Pitti "Three Ages" is the work of his hand.[53] Still less do I hold with the view that Lotto is the author.[54] Here, again, I believe Morelli saw further than other critics, and that his attribution is the right one. The simplicity, the apparently unstudied grouping, the refinement of type, the powerful expression, are worthy of the master; the play of light on the faces, especially on that of the youth, is most characteristic, and the peculiar chord of colour reveals a sense of originality such as no imitator would command. Unless I am mistaken, the man on the right is none other than the Aeneas in the Vienna picture, and his hand with the pointing forefinger is such as we see two or three times over in the "Judgment of Solomon" and elsewhere. Certainly here it is awkwardly introduced, obviously to bring the figure into direct relation with the others; but Giorgione is by no means always supreme master of natural expression, as the hands in the "Adrastus and Hypsipyle" and Vienna pictures clearly show.

Here, for the first time, we meet Giorgione in those studies of human nature which are commonly called "conversation pieces," or "concerts"—natural groups of generally three people knit together by some common bond, which is usually music in one form or another. It is not the idyll of the "Pastoral Symphony," but akin to it as an expression of some exquisite moment of thought or feeling, an ideal instant "in which, arrested thus, we seem to be spectators of all the fulness of existence, and which is like some consummate extract or quintessence of life."[55] No one before Giorgione's time had painted such ideas, such poems without articulated story; and to have reached this stage of development presupposes a familiarity with set subjects such as a classic myth or mediaeval romance would offer for treatment. And so this "Three Ages" dates from his later years.



Another picture in the Pitti was also recognised by Morelli as Giorgione's work—"The Nymph pursued by a Satyr." Modern criticism seems undecided on the justice of this view, some writers inclining to the belief that this is a Giorgionesque production of Dosso Dossi, others preserving a discreet silence, or making frank avowal of their inability to decide. Nevertheless, I venture to agree with Morelli that "we have all the characteristics of an early (?) work of Giorgione—the type of the nymph with the low forehead, the charming arrangement of the hair upon the temples, the eyes placed near together, and the hand with tapering fingers."[56] The oval of the face recalls the "Knight of Malta," the high cranium and treatment of the hair such as we find in the Dresden "Venus" and elsewhere. The delicacy of modelling, the beauty of the features are far beyond Dosso's powers, who, brilliant artist as he sometimes was, was of much coarser fibre than the painter of these figures. The difference of calibre between the two is well illustrated by comparing Giorgione's "Satyr" with Dosso's frankly vulgar "Buffone" in the Modena Gallery, or with those uncouth productions, also in the Pitti, the "S. John Baptist" and the "Bambocciate."[57] Were the repaints removed, I think all doubts as to the authorship would be set at rest, and the "Nymph and Satyr" would take its place among the slighter and more summary productions of Giorgione's brush.



Only one sacred subject figures in the additions made by Morelli to the list of genuine Giorgiones. This is the small altar-piece at Madrid, with Madonna seated between S. Francis and S. Roch. Traditionally accredited to Pordenone, it has now received official recognition as a masterpiece of Giorgione, an attribution that, so far as I am aware, no one has seriously contested.[58] And, indeed, it is hard to conceive wherein any objection could possibly lie, for it is a typical creation of the master, usque ad unguem. Not only in types, colour, light and shade, and particularly in feeling, is the picture characteristic, but it again shows the artist leaving work unfinished, and again reveals the fact that the work grew in conception as it was actually being painted. I mean that the whole figure of S. Roch has been painted in over the rest, and that the S. Francis has also probably been introduced afterwards. I have little doubt that originally Giorgione intended to paint a simple Madonna and Child, and afterwards extended the scheme. The composition of three figures, practically in a row, is moreover most unusual, and contrary to that triangular scheme particularly favoured by the master, whereas the lovely sweep of Madonna's dress by itself creates a perfect design on a triangular basis. A great artist is here revealed, one whose feeling for line is so intense that he wilfully casts the drapery in unnatural folds in order to secure an artistic triumph. The working out of the dress within this line has yet to be done, the folds being merely suggested, and this task has been left whilst forwarding other parts. The freedom of touch and thinness of paint indicates how rapidly the artist worked. There is little deliberation apparent: indeed, the effect is that of hasty improvisation. Velasquez could not have painted the stone on which S. Roch rests his foot with greater precision or more consummate mastery; the delicacy of flesh tints is amazing. The bit of landscape behind S. Roch (invisible in the reproduction), with its stately tree trunk rising solitary beside the hanging curtain, strikes a note of romance, fit accompaniment to the bizarre figure of the saint in his orange jerkin and blue leggings. How mysterious, too, is S. Francis!—rapt in his own thoughts, yet strangely human.



We have now examined ten of the twelve pictures added, on Morelli's initiative, to the list of genuine works, and we have found very little, if any, serious opposition on the part of later writers to his views. Not so, however, with regard to the remaining two pictures. The first of these is a fragment in the gallery of Buda-Pesth, representing two figures in a landscape. All modern critics are agreed that Morelli has here mistaken an old copy after Giorgione for an original, a mistake we may readily pardon in consideration of the successful identification he has made of these figures with the Shepherds, in the composition seen and described by the Anonimo in 1525 as the "Birth of Paris," by Giorgione. This identification is fully confirmed by the engraving made by Th. von Kessel for the Theatrum Pictorium, which shows how these two figures are placed in the composition. Where, as in the present case, the original is missing, even a partial copy is of great value, for in it we can see the mind, if not the hand, of the great master. The Anonimo tells us this "Birth of Paris" was one of Giorgione's early works, a statement worthy of credence from the still Bellinesque stamp and general likeness of one of the Shepherds to the "Adrastus" in the Giovanelli picture. In pose, type, arrangement of hair, and in landscape this fragment is thoroughly Giorgionesque, and we have, moreover, those most characteristic traits, the pointing forefinger, and the unbroken curve of outline. The execution is, however, raw and crude, and entirely wanting in the magic quality of the master's own touch.[59]



Finally, on Morelli's list figures the "Shepherd" at Hampton Court, for the genuineness of which the critic would not absolutely vouch, as he had only seen it in a bad light. Perhaps no picture has been so strongly championed by an enthusiastic writer as has been this "Shepherd" by Mr. Berenson, who strenuously advocates its title to genuineness.[60] Nevertheless, several modern authorities remain unconvinced in presence of the work itself. The conception is unquestionably Giorgione's own, as we may see from a picture now in the Vienna Gallery, where this head is repeated in a representation of the young David holding the head of Goliath. The Vienna picture is, however, but a copy of a lost original by Giorgione, the existence of which is independently attested by Vasari.[61] Now, the question naturally arises, What relation does the Hampton Court "Shepherd" bear to this "David," Giorgione's lost original? It is possible, of course, that the master repeated himself, merely transforming the David into a Shepherd, or vice versa, and it is equally possible that some other and later artist adapted Giorgione's "David" to his own end, utilising the conception that is, and carrying it out in his own way. Arguing purely a priori, the latter possibility is the more likely, inasmuch as we know Giorgione hardly ever repeats a figure or a composition, whereas Titian, Cariani, and other later Venetian artists freely adopted Giorgione's ideas, his types, and his compositions for their own purposes. Internal evidence appears to me, moreover, to confirm this view, for the general style of painting seems to indicate a later period than 1510, the year of Giorgione's death. The flimsy folds, in particular, are not readily recognisable as the master's own. A comparison with a portrait in the Gallery of Padua reveals, particularly in this respect, striking resemblances. This fine portrait was identified by both Crowe and Cavalcaselle and by Morelli as the work of Torbido, and I venture to place the reproduction of it beside that of the "Shepherd" for comparison. It is not easy to pronounce on the technical qualities of either work, for both have suffered from re-touching and discolouring varnish, and the hand of the "Shepherd" is certainly damaged. Yet, whilst admitting that the evidence is inconclusive, I cannot refrain from suggesting Torbido's name as possible author of the "Shepherd," the more so as we know he carefully studied and formed his style upon Giorgione's work.[62] It is at least conceivable that he took Giorgione's "David with the Head of Goliath," and by a simple, and in this case peculiarly appropriate, transformation, changed him into a shepherd boy holding a flute.

We have now taken all the pictures which either Crowe and Cavalcaselle or Morelli, or both, assign to Giorgione himself. There still remain, however, three or four works to be mentioned where these authorities hold opposite views which require some examination.

First and foremost comes the "Concert" in the Pitti Gallery, a work which was regarded by Crowe and Cavalcaselle not only as a genuine example of Giorgione's art, but as "not having its equal in any period of Giorgione's practice. It gives," they go on, "a just measure of his skill, and explains his celebrity."[63] Morelli, on the contrary, holds: "It has unfortunately been so much damaged by a restorer that little enough remains of the original, yet from the form of the hands and of the ear, and from the gestures of the figures, we are led to infer that it is not a work of Giorgione, but belongs to a somewhat later period. If the repaint covering the surface were removed we should, I think, find that it is an early work by Titian."[64] Where Morelli hesitated his followers have decided, and accordingly, in Mr. Berenson's list, in Mr. Claude Phillips' "Life of Titian," and in the latest biography on that master, published by Dr. Gronau, we find the "Concert" put down to Titian. On the other hand, Dr. Bode, Signor Conti in his monograph on Giorgione, M. Muentz, and the authorities in Florence support the traditional view that the "Concert" is a masterpiece of Giorgione.



Which view is the right one? To many this may appear an academic discussion of little value, for, ipso facto, the quality of the work is admitted by all. The picture is a fine thing, in spite of its imperfect condition, and what matter whether Titian or Giorgione be the author? But to this sort of argument it may be said that until we do know what is Giorgione's work and what is not, it is impossible to gauge accurately the nature and scope of his art, or to reach through that channel the character of the artist behind his work. In the case of Giorgione and Titian, the task of drawing the dividing line is one of unusual difficulty, and a long and careful study of the question has convinced me that this will have to be done in a way that modern criticism has not yet attempted. From the very earliest days the two have been so inextricably confused that it will require a very exhaustive re-examination of all the evidence in the light of modern discoveries, documentary and pictorial, coupled, I am afraid, with the recognition of the fact that much modern criticism on this point has been curiously at fault. This is neither the time nor the place to discuss the question of Titian's early work, but I feel sure that this chapter of art history has yet to be correctly written.[65] One of the determining factors in the discussion will be the authorship of the Pitti "Concert," for our estimate of Giorgione or Titian must be coloured appreciably by the recognition of such an epoch-making picture as the work of one or the other.

It is, therefore, peculiarly unfortunate that the two side figures in this wonderful group are so rubbed and repainted as almost to defy certainty of judgment. In conception and spirit they are typically Giorgionesque, and Morelli, I imagine, would scarcely have made the bold suggestion of Titian's authorship but for the central figure of the young monk playing the harpsichord. This head stands out in grand relief, being in a far purer state of preservation than the rest, and we are able to appreciate to some extent the extraordinarily subtle modelling of the features, the clear-cut contours, the intensity of expression. The fine portrait in the Louvre, known as "L'homme au gant," an undoubted early work of Titian, is singularly close in character and style, as was first pointed out by Mr. Claude Phillips,[66] and it was this general reminiscence, more than points of detail in an admittedly imperfect work that seemingly induced Morelli to suggest Titian's name as possible author of the "Concert." Nevertheless, I cannot allow this plausible comparison to outweigh other and more vital considerations. The subtlety of the composition, the bold sweep of diagonal lines, the way the figure of the young monk is "built up" on a triangular design, the contrasts of black and white, are essentially Giorgione's own. So, too, is the spirit of the scene, so telling in its movement, gesture, and expression. Surely it is needless to translate all that is most characteristic of Giorgione in his most personal expression into a "Giorgionesque" mood of Titian. No, let us admit that Titian owed much to his friend and master (more perhaps than we yet know), but let us not needlessly deprive Giorgione of what is, in my opinion at least, the great creation of his maturer years, the Pitti "Concert." I am inclined to place it about 1506-7, and to regard it as the earliest and finest expression in Venetian art of that kind of genre painting of which we have already studied another, though later example, "The Three Ages" (in the Pitti). The second work where Crowe and Cavalcaselle hold a different view from Morelli is a "Portrait of a Man" in the Gallery of Rovigo (No. 11). The former writers declare that it, "perhaps more than any other, approximates to the true style of Giorgione."[67] With such praise sounding in one's ears it is somewhat of a shock to discover that this "grave and powerfully wrought creation" is a miniature 7 by 6 inches in size. Such an insignificant fragment requires no serious consideration; at most it would seem only to be a reduced copy after some lost original. Morelli alludes to it as a copy after Palma, but one may well doubt whether he is not referring to another portrait in the same gallery (No. 123). Be that as it may, this "Giorgione" miniature is sadly out of place among genuine pieces of the master.[68]



One other picture, of special interest to English people, is in dispute. By Crowe and Cavalcaselle "The Adoration of the Magi," now in the National Gallery (No. 1160), is attributed to the master himself; by Morelli it was assigned to Catena.[69] This brilliant little panel is admittedly by the same hand that painted the Beaumont "Adoration of the Shepherds," and yet another picture presently to be mentioned. We have already agreed to the propriety of attribution in the former case; it follows, therefore, that here also Giorgione's name is the correct one, and his name, we are glad to see, has recently been placed on the label by the Director of the Gallery.

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse