The Royal Academy of Arts present a new exhibition entitled In the Age of Giorgione which explores artists associated with the Venetian Renaissance during the first decade of the sixteenth century. The exhibition will focus on the important period, just before what is considered the Golden Age of Venetian painting and features around 50 works from public institutions and private collections across Europe and the United States. There are works by celebrated artists of the period such as Giorgione, Titian, Giovanni Bellini, Sebastiano del Piombo, Lorenzo Lotto, Giovanni Cariani and considers the influence of Albrecht Dürer who visited Venice in 1505 –6.
The first room illustrates the changing face of Venetian portraiture, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, Giovanni Bellini was considered the city’s most prominent painter and the Bellini workshop attracted some of the best young artistic talent in Venice. However, it was Giorgione who was influenced by Leonardo da Vinci that transformed portraiture with a new naturalism that explored some of the psychological aspects of the sitter. The Terris Portrait in the room is one of only two known paintings bearing a contemporary inscription on the back of the panel identifying Giorgione as the artist. Its style has moved towards a technique favoured by Leonardo da Vinci’s which gives the portrait an ‘enigmatic’ effect.
Enigmatic could be applied to Giorgione’s life, little is known about his life and career and even today there are only a few works that can be attributed to Giorgione with certainty. Most of the information about Giorgione is derived from Giorgio Vasari’s Lives written in the middle of the 16th century. According to Vasari, Giorgione was born at Castelfranco in the territory of Treviso in the year 1478 and was born from very humble stock but enjoyed music and was known for his lute playing. Vasari noted his influence from Leonardo, “Giorgione had seen some things by the hand of Leonardo with a beautiful gradation of colours, and with extraordinary relief, effected, as has been related, by means of dark shadows; and this manner pleased him so much that he was for ever studying it as long as he lived, and in oil-painting he imitated it greatly.”
It was not just portraits that were transformed in Venice this period, the visit of Albrecht Dürer led to experiments with landscape by Venetian artists. One of Giorgione’s landscapes, Il Tramonto is included in the exhibition which illustrates that his ideas in this genre were often as enigmatic as his portraits.
Giorgione’s ‘modern style’ attracted artists, most notably Titian who was ten years younger than Giorgione and was inspired to develop the older artist’s use of soft and sensuous use of colour on a larger scale. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the room of Devotional works . Generally Giorgione’s devotional works were small and intended for a domestic setting, in contrast the works of Bellini and Titian are for a grander scale. Dominating the room is Titian’s Jacopo Pesaro Being Presented by Pope Alexander VI to St Peter.
The final room is given over to Allegorical Portraits which have a personal and symbolic message, Giovanni Cariani’s Judith and Giorgione’s La Vecchia explore beyond the idealised visions of women to great effect.
Vasari suggests that Giorgione was in love with a lady infected by plague and he became ill and died in 1511 aged only thirty-four. With Giorgione dead, it was to be Titian who became the leading artist in Venice and would introduce a new era of Venetian painting. However, even though Giorgione had died, both himself and Titian would be intrinsically linked. Vasari illustrated the problem in the 16th century, “Titian attached himself to that of Giorgione; coming in a short time to imitate his works so well, that his pictures at times were mistaken for works by Giorgione.” Unfortunately for the legacy of Giorgione, this was to present a major problem. Over a century ago, a large number of paintings were generally accepted by scholars as being by Giorgione. However, today only about 40 have been attributed to him, many of those considered from the last years of the artist are now regarded as being by the young Titian.
This exhibition may only cover a relatively short period of Venetian art in the early 16th century, but it does give a tantalising glimpse of a Venetian art world populated by some of the greatest Renaissance artists. The influence of Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer transformed Venetian artists such as Giorgione and Titian. Whilst Titian is now considered one of the great artists, Giorgione has been widely overlooked and ignored. This exhibition tries to address the balance by exploring the work of the mysterious and enigmatic artist within the artistic context of Venice on the cusp of its Golden Age.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
Dates and Times
Saturday 12 March – Sunday 5 June 2016
10am – 6pm daily (last admission 5.30pm)
Late night opening: Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm)
Admission £11.50 full price (£10 excluding Gift Aid donation); concessions available;
Children under 16 and Friends of the RA go free.
If you would like more information or book tickets, visit the Royal Academy website here
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