top of page

Giorgione - The Tempest

by Alexandra Tuschka

It is one of the most famous paintings in the world, but why? Not much happens here. Two figures flank the painting on the right and left. In the center, the view clears; a river, a bridge, walls, houses and towers are visible. And above them - out of a puffy cloud - a short bright flash climbs into the picture. Next to it, quite unimpressed, a stork has proudly taken a seat on a roof.

It is probably the impossibility of fully deciphering this painting that makes it so fascinating. Are the figures supposed to be "Mars and Venus", or "Adam and Eve"? Personifications of active and contemplative life? Art historians have long argued about the identity of the two. After all, Giorgione renounces any attributes and direct communication of the two persons. After all, the man confirms her presence to the woman with a glance. Since Giorgione places the lady on a hill, the two could meet at eye level. She, in turn, makes contact with the viewer out of the background of the picture. Of course, this motif has similarities with Mother Mary and the baby Jesus. However, the baby is not at all convincing as "Jesus", it is not very present and too naturalistically staged. The interpretation is further complicated by the fact that the canvas was demonstrably painted over. Thus, there was originally a second nude instead of the man in the left part of the picture.

Well - nymph and gypsy, the four elements, an episode of the Bible, mythology ? Perhaps it was never the intention of the painter to give the picture a deeper layer of meaning and the figures serve only as staffage. If Giorgione had known how many people will rack their brains over this, he might have hidden a little hint before his early death.

Giorgione - The Tempest

Oil on canvas, around 1505, 73 x 82 cm, Galeria Dell' Academia in Florence

bottom of page