The Tempest

(c. 1500-1505; Venice, Galleria dell' Accademia)
   Painted by Giorgione, the subject of The Tempest is not completely understood. The Venetian collector and connoisseur Marcantonio Michiel recorded in 1530 in his journal that he saw the painting in the house of fellow collector Gabriel Vendramin, noting that it represents a gypsy and soldier in a landscape. The woman, whoever she may be, is nude and sits on a white sheet while nursing her baby. In the background, a thunderbolt appears among the thick, dark clouds where a storm is brewing. Her anxiety over the weather conditions is read clearly in her facial expression. Regardless of the subject, the work is a masterful representation of figures in a land-scape with an atmosphere so thick that the viewer can almost feel the dampness in the air. Giorgione granted the scene an ethereal quality, typical of his mature style, by applying to it a lush, soft brushwork. The profusion of earth tones and greens dotted with deep reds stem from the palette of Leonardo da Vinci who visited Venice in 1500 where Giorgione was active. The Tempest is the earliest known work to portray a sensuous, voluptuous female nude in the landscape, a subject that will be repeated many times by the members of the 16th-century Venetian School.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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