Portrait of a Youth 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 Youth is a painting that has inspired debate among art historians for centuries. Although usually attributed to Giorgione, many believe that the artist responsible was actually his contemporary, Giovanni Cariani, or another, unknown Venetian painter.

It seems likely that the truth will never be known, but regardless of its provenance, this beautiful painting will continue to inspire lovers of art. Completed between 1508 and 1510, Portrait of a Youth is a work of oil on canvas. This is an example of the Venetian school of Italian Renaissance painting, of which Giorgione was a pioneer. However, some details - particularly the dark background - show Flemish influences. This painting is now in bad condition. Although the central figure of the portrait has survived well, other aspects of the painting are badly faded. On the left, the window opening can now barely be seen, and little of the background is clear.

If this painting was indeed a work by Giorgione, then it would have been completed very late in his life. The artist died of the plague in 1510, so this would have been one of his final works. There are a number of clues which suggest that it was a Giorgione painting, although many of these are only clear under X-ray photography. Art analysts have found modifications made to both the eyes and the hands while the picture was being painted, which are similar in nature to alterations made in other Giorgione paintings. In general, the style is extremely similar, with the same extraordinary details, to most Giorgione portraits. However, artists like Cariani - who was heavily influenced by Giorgione - are still suggested as alternative painters.

The youth at the centre of the painting is also unknown, although many historians have suggested that he may be Antonio Broccardo, a poet of the day. Details within the painting hold tantalising clues that today are open to interpretation, with no clear answer. For example, a shield on the parapet features the inscription "V". This is often identified as symbolising the word "virtus", Latin for courage or virtue. The parapet also holds a cameo in the ancient Roman style, and a miniature cartouche, its inscription barely legible.

Portrait of a Youth is a painting that contains some of the most enduring mysteries in the world of art. Today, it can be viewed in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, where it continues to attract art lovers. Some are drawn by its fascinating, mysterious history, while others simply wish to admire a beautiful example of a Venetian Renaissance painting.