The Early Modern World, C. 1300–1600

Renaissance Venice

Who was Giorgione?

Very little is known about the Venetian painter Giorgione. He was born in 1478 in the northern Italian town, Castelfranco, was a student under Giovanni Bellini, and died of the plague in 1510. He was an innovative painter credited with ushering in the High Renaissance in Venice. He emphasized landscape in his work, which was popular in Venice at the time, and rendered both landscapes and portraits meaningful through the extensive use of symbolism. According to the writer Vasari, Giorgione was inspired by the sfumato technique used by Leonardo da Vinci, and preferred to draw directly on the canvas, rather than do preparatory drawings on paper. Attributing specific paintings to Giorgione is extremely difficult and scholars have only confirmed five paintings as being from his hand. His most famous surviving painting, The Tempest, is of a forested landscape with a lightning storm in the background. A breastfeeding woman sits partially covered by some vegetation, while a red-jacketed solider watches her from afar. The mysterious painting enthralls scholars and other viewers, who continue to wonder at its meaning.


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