Portrait of a Man Giorgione Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Portrait of a Man is considered to be a work by the artist Giorgione and was probably painted during the last years of his life. There is little known about the artist himself, who passed away from the plague in his thirties.

Of a possible 40 paintings that still survive today, there is still much debate as to which can actually be attributed to Giorgione or not. Many of his works are actually thought to be by Titian, with whom he was a pupil of Giovanni Bellini, with the majority being unsigned or dated which further muddiest the water in terms of their origin. Some even question Giorgione's existence at all, but this is an unfounded matter for conspiracy theorists.

Despite being well known among his Venetian contemporaries, his legacy has waned somewhat as a result of the impossibility to categorically identify much of his works. However, the melancholic and delicately conceived Portrait of a Man does seem to suggest it was painted by Giorgione. There is an independence and freedom to the work, with much made of the contrast brought by shadow and light.

Painting during the High Renaissance period in Venice, Giorgione's works are characterised stylistically by their introspective mood, common for this period. Along with Titian, he revolutionised the idea of the portrait, incorporating atmosphere and a somewhat pastoral mood to an otherwise standard painting commission. He was also one of the first artists to work solely in oil. During his early career, it is thought that he may have encountered Leonardo Da Vinci, who was also a great advocate of the medium.

Portrait of a Man was painted in oil on panel and is also known as the Terris Portrait. Painted in Italy, it is thought to be portrait of Alexander Terris, who was a coal merchant from Scotland. The work captures a luminosity through the darkness and the lustrous colours bring a depth to an otherwise unremarkable portrait. Giorgione was working during a turbulent time in Venice, where plague was rife and the city itself had suffered great destruction as a result of both fire and war.

Under the tutelage of Giovanni Bellini, art during this time was beginning to move away from more traditional spiritual and religious imagery into a world of something more human, a renewed vigour for living, breathing flesh. One of his other most celebrated paintings is his Sleeping Venus. Although many other artists have also famously depicted the goddess, it is said that none have done so with the simplicity and natural beauty of form captured by Giorgione. For those wishing to see it for themselves, Portrait of a Man is currently on display in the San Diego Museum of Art.