First Itinerary: Giorgione and the Revolution in Venetian Painting
This itinerary examines the development of oil painting in Venice, beginning with the work of Giovanni Bellini, who was the leading painter in the lagoon city in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and was largely responsible for introducing the medium of oil into Venetian painting, having been influenced by Netherlandish art. Bellini’s work shaped that of his contemporaries, as well as the artists of the next generation, Giorgione, Titian, and Sebastiano del Piombo, who continued to experiment with the potentialities of oil.
Despite being widely regarded as one of the most important painters in the canon of Western art, Giorgione is also one of the most enigmatic. Few details of his career and chronology are certain, and only a handful of paintings are universally accepted as autograph; the precise meaning of these has also proved elusive. The artist’s principle achievement was to introduce in Venice a new way of painting which exploited the medium of oil to maximise chiaroscuro and atmospheric effects, which were especially successful in the depiction of landscapes. The slightly younger Titian and Sebastiano del Piombo were so profoundly influenced by Giorgione’s work that the sixteenth-century painter and biographer, Giorgio Vasari, described these two artists as his ‘creati’. Even the old Bellini, always an adaptable artist, was influenced in his technique and style by the innovations introduced into Venetian painting by Giorgione.
The Gallerie dell’Accademia offers the opportunity to admire Giovanni Bellini’s seminal San Giobbe altarpiece, which demonstrates the artist’s supreme skill in the depiction of rich materials and light, rendered through the build of thin layers of translucent oil glazes. In later works, like the Martinego Pietà and the Lamentation over Christ, Bellini’s technique evolved in response to the innovations of Giorgione epitomized in two documented works, La Vecchia and La Tempesta, where the artist’s handling of the paint is much freer.
In the Museo Correr, it is possible to view three important early works by Giovanni Bellini in proximity to the moving Dead Christ Supported by Angels by Antonello da Messina, who was trained in the Netherlandish tradition and had a great impact on Venetian artists when he spent just under a year in Venice between 1475-1476. In the Ca d’Oro, the close relationship between the work of Giorgione and the young Titian is evident in the surviving fragments of the frescoes that once decorated the Fondaco de’ Tedeschi, the German Merchants’ trading post. Although executed in a different medium, the elusive subject matter of the frescoes is characteristic of the new genres, including classicizing nudes and allegories, introduced into Venetian art by Giorgione and the younger generation of Venetian artists.
The evolution of Venetian painting can also be seen in several important altarpieces by Bellini, Titian, Sebastiano, and Giorgione, which remain in situ, including those by Bellini and Titian in the Frari, by Bellini and Sebastiano in San Giovanni Crisostomo, and by Bellini in San Zaccaria.
Giovanni Bellini, San Giobbe Altarpiece and Pietà Martinengo
Giovanni Bellini and workshop, Lamentation over the dead Christ
Giovanni Bellini, Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and a Female Saint
Sebastiano del Piombo, Madonna and Child with Saints Catherine and John the Baptist
Sebastiano del Piombo, San Bartolomeo organ shutters
Attributed to Titian or Sebastiano del Piombo, The Visitation
Titian, Tobias and the Archangel Raphael
Giorgione, La Vecchia (Col Tempo)
Giorgione, La Tempesta
Giovanni Bellini, The Transfiguration
Giovanni Bellini, Pietà
Giovanni Bellini, Crucfixion
Antonello da Messina, Pietà
Giorgione, La Nuda
Titian, Judith or Justice
Giovanni Bellini, San Zaccaria Altarpiece
San Giovanni Crisostomo
Sebastiano del Piombo, San Giovanni Crisostomo Altarpiece
Giovanni Bellini, Saint Jerome Altarpiece
Santa Maria della Salute
Titian, Saint Mark Enthroned
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
Giovanni Bellini, Madonna and Child with Saints Cappella Pesaro-Sagrestia
Titian, Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro
Giorgione’s birthplace, Castelfranco Veneto
Duomo, Catelfranco Altarpiece
Museo Casa di Giogione