National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Holy Family Giorgione (painter)
Venetian, 1477/1478 - 1510
The Holy Family, probably c. 1500
oil on panel transferred to hardboard
overall: 37.3 x 45.6 cm (14 11/16 x 17 15/16 in.) framed: 55.9 x 64.8 x 7.6 cm (22 x 25 1/2 x 3 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
On View
From the Tour: Giorgione and the High Renaissance in Venice
Object 2 of 7

Knowledge of Giorgione's life and career is in inverse proportion to his importance. He remains one of the least documented and most influential of all Renaissance painters. A single signed painting exists. Beyond that, scholars must attempt to identify his works on the basis of style and on sixteenth-century household inventories, which provide only brief indications of subject matter. Many of Giorgione's paintings were made for private patrons, so that records, which typically document large civic and religious commissions, are not available. Difficulty also arises in distinguishing the early work of Giorgione from that of near contemporaries like Sebastiano del Piombo and Titian, who were also pupils of Bellini and whose early styles were likewise heavily influenced by their teacher.

This painting must be one of those early works. The figures, especially the aged, bearded Joseph, closely resemble those of Bellini. Joseph sits on an unfinished wall, while mother and child are seated on a humble rock that emphasizes Christ's humility and humanity. The symbolism of the unfinished wall also refers to the incomplete and imperfect era before Christ's birth. The precision of detail, particularly of the plants and rocks in the foreground, suggests the influence of paintings from northern Europe, which could be seen in Venice in large numbers and were also known through prints.

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