Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Scenes from an Eclogue

Nobody has proved any direct link between Giorgione’s mysterious Tempesta and the pastoral poems of his contemporaries. The art historian Terisio Pignatti, for example, once wrote that there was nothing in the Venetian writer Pietro Bembo’s Gli Asolani that could not be read into the paintings of Giorgione, but he didn’t imply that the artist was actually illustrating anything in Bembo’s book. All that can be said is that Giorgione’s creations - mythological figures in landscape settings and Arcadian figures like the Shepherd with a Flute – share some of the same atmosphere as the pastorals written by Boiardo, Mantuan, Sannazaro et al.

However, one artist at this time did paint Giorgionesque pastoral landscapes based directly on a work of contemporary literature. He was Andrea Previtali, and his Scenes from an Eclogue of Tebaldeo (circa 1505) are now in the National Gallery, London (two of them are shown above). The poem is the popular second eclogue of the Ferrarese poet, Antonio Tebaldeo (1502), in which Damon laments his lost love and then takes his own life. These pictures may have been painted for the cover of a musical instrument, thus uniting poetry, art and music.

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