Giorgione’s pre-eminent contribution to the development of the Portrait is largely unacknowledged today. Mainly the result of misattribution on a grand scale, it has lead to a fundamental failure to grasp the prodigious and diverse nature of his output and as a consequence has completely lost sight of his historical stature as the most renowned portraitist of his day. This is truly bizarre because portraiture was at the centre of Giorgione’s life and early success. During the 1490’s it enabled him to move in courtly circles, where high quality portraits were increasingly in demand, achieving early fame and becoming portrait painter to the Venetian State. This early success saw him paint the portraits of the Doges Agostino Barbarigo and Leonardo Loredano, the Great Captain Gonzalo Fernandez, the Queen of Cyprus Caterina Cornaro, and many more of the Venetian and Italian Nobility.


Giorgione was also constantly painting himself and his friends, which allowed him to experiment and invent new enduring styles of portraiture. He excelled with his ability to reproduce rich costume detail, shiny armour in particular, but his most celebrated achievement was in the manner in which the sitters were brought to life … “the most skilful artists of those times agreed he had been born to infuse life into his figures and to counterfeit the freshness of living flesh, more than any other artist who had ever painted, not only in Venice, but anywhere.” Vasari, Le Vite.

The paintings displayed here range from formal state portraits to those of friends, colleagues and self–portraits. The ‘allegorical’ portrait often uses more than one figure and in the ‘history’ portraits, dramatic moments from biblical stories and the lives of Saints are evoked.

© 2010 Zorzon 500