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Artist: Giorgione (*1477/1478; †25.10.1510)

Title: The Adoration of the Shepherds

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The Adoration of the Shepherd

about 1505, oil on panel, 35 4/5″ x 43 4/5″ (91 x 111cm)

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA

This essay attempts to describe analyze and evaluate the famous painting “The Adoration of the Shepherd” by Giorgione (originally Giorgio Barbarelli). In the following essay there will be three main sections:1 Inventory – (WHAT?)2 Formal Analysis – (HOW?)3 Interpretation/Meaning (WHY?)The Inventory (I) will include:

a.) subject matter

b.) function/intention

c.) description

The Formal Analysis (II) will include:

a.) Pictorial Elements

i. Line

ii. Form and shape

iii. Colour

iv. Space

b.) Pictorial Elements

i. Balance

ii. Emphasis

iii. Contrast

iv. Pattern

The Interpretation/Meaning (III) will be written without any guideline points, the aim of this part will be to determine what the painter wanted to express with his piece of work and what it tells us in a symbolic or not instantly clear way. This part will also handle why the artist drew the painting the way he did it and why he chose various techniques or tools.

1. About the Painter

Giorgione or Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco was born in 1477 or 1478, the exact date is not known, in Castelfranco. Even though there were no more than about twenty paintings officially associated with him, of which only about six are attributed to him without doubt, his originality was so powerful that these few works have come to represent not only the first stage in the Venice High Renaissance, but a new trend in Italian art as well. Surviving documentation of his life and work is sparse.

Giorgione d…

…aw the background so detailed?

Giorgione “loved to paint landscapes.” Especially in “The Adoration of the shepherds” you can see how much effort he invested in painting a detailed background in form of a piece of coast and part of a village. When isolated this part takes on a life of its own (If concentrating you can see tiny details such as two persons standing at the edge of the coast.

Why is there a cow in the back of the cave?

This cave is a stable and Jesus was born in a stable. This is the place where the messiahs saw daylight for the very first time in his life. The houses in the background are probably part of Bethlehem.

What’s the meaning of the completely blue sky in the background?

Blue is the colour of hope and the birth of Jesus is the beginning of hope.


Discovering Art History; Gerald F. Brommer; Davis Publications, Inc.

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