Pastoral Concert

7:00 AM

Giorgione, Pastoral Concert, 1510

Undeniably one of Venetian Renaissance art's most mysterious works, Pastoral Concert embodies the allegory of poetry and the divinity of Arcadia thanks to the works of Giorgione. Although controversy stirs over who the painting is accredited to, with Giorgione's death in 1510 and his close partnership with Titian, the composition with no doubt follows the themes of poetry omnipresent in quite a few of Giorgione's other paintings. Additionally the figures of the women, the depth of the background in the endless valleys and mountain, and the muted storm-like sky pay tribute to Giorgione's respective style.

Nonetheless the scene evokes meaning in the actions of the figures, as the naked women are positioned on each side of the men depicting the Muses of poetry. The standing figure pouring water from a glass jar represents the superior tragic poetry, while the seated one holding a flute reflects the less prestigious pastoral poetry. Between these naked women is a well-dressed, upper class youth playing a lute with a man who looks like a 16th century peasant version of Napoleon Dynamite listening intently to the music.

The scenery is characterized by the concept of duality and harmony between the various classes through different forms of literature and music. What struck me most interesting in this painting however, was the Mannerist allusion to Arcadia, which became popular in its vision of pastoralism and unity with nature during the Renaissance era. Moreover, many subjects of paintings began to incorporate the imagery of women in lush forests in reference to the Greek story of Arcadia: Hera banishes the nymph Callisto to a lush forest, while imprisoning her in the figure of a bear as a punishment for sleeping with Zeus. In the end of the legend, Callisto's son encounters his mother in the Arcadia but does not recognize her, so he slays the bear before acknowledging the animal's true identity.

Tragic, the story really is. However, what's most interesting about this legend is that Giorgione paints these gracefully naked women in his composition to express the divinity of their beauty in harmony with their parallel to literature during this time period. But if you look closely, the men aren't even acknowledging the women's existence. So, the real speculation is if these women are actually present in the concert or if they are supernatural. It's arguable that in fact these women are representations of the nymph Callisto and her story in the utopian aura of Arcadia, as her true beauty is dismissed by the masking face of the bear. Giorgione might be on the verge of some pressing feminist ideals by addressing their divinity in assimilation to the concept of appreciating women in the muses of poetry as artists move towards Mannerism and intellectual sophistication. But who really knows... the painting could in fact just be a group of individuals enjoying a concert in the open air on a mildly cloudy day.

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