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Giorgione’s “Two friends” opens the seasons of sentiment at Palazzo Venezia

by Andrea Carli

Can art represent a feeling? The answer is yes, it can. Would you like an example? Are you skeptical? Well, let’s visit during these days Palazzo Venezia and Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome. Some rooms of these legendary places, known all over the world, are hosting “Labyrinths of the Heart. Giorgione and the seasons of sentiment from Venice to Rome.”

It is an exhibition curated by Enrico Maria Dal Pozzolo built around Two friends, a double portrait of Giorgione that has for some time now been considered one of the maestro’s masterpieces, but remains relatively unknown compared to its extraordinary relevance.

The exhibition features 45 paintings, 27 sculptures, 36 illustrated volumes and manuscripts, as well as numerous other objects, prints and drawings.

The painting is a masterpiece that represents a landmark turning point in Italian portraiture of the early 1500s. Ok, but the characteristic which makes it special is another one. Compared to earlier (and not only Venetian) paintings, this work stands out thanks to an unprecedented synthesis of elements that turn it into a new idea of the portrait, one intended to underline a person’s state of mind and the expression of amorous feelings. So here is the answer to the previous question. “Feelings,” Morris Albert sang...

«There are portraits where the subject depicted on the canvas asks to be portrayed not for his role or the position he has in society - curator Dal Pozzolo explains - but to tell the mood that at that specific time is living. In this exhibition we start from the labyrinth of the heart to tell a very human story. In my opinion Giorgione’s “Two Friends” represents for Palazzo Venezia what “Gioconda” is for Louvre Museum».

Giorgione’s work appears to be closely connected with a particular cultural climate, that of young patrician residents of Venice during the “hedonistic” period of maximum expansion of political power, on the eve of the radical resizing that the Serenissima would be forced to undertake.

This portrait of Giorgione is conserved in the collections in Palazzo Venezia, but has been attested in Rome since the beginning of the 1600s, proof of the historical connections that link Giorgione with Rome, within the framework of a much broader network of relationships established between Venice and the Eternal City that were given a privileged stage inside the Palazzo di Venezia.

Thus it would be more appropriate to define the edifice as the first Roman home of the collector, and in all probability patron, of the “Painter of Castelfranco”: Cardinal Domenico Grimani who, along with Pope Paul II, was a key figure in the political, diplomatic and cultural relationships established between these two nation states from the end of the 1400s through the first two decades of the 1500s.

The first section of the exhibition, dedicated to the aforementioned historical events and the extraordinary novelties contained in Giorgione’s “Two friends” compared with accepted artistic practice in the early 1500s, are developed in the Barbo’s chambers.

The exhibition continues at Castel Sant’Angelo, in the papal chambers, where the second section is set up. This part of the exhibition is dedicated to other artworks produced by great Renaissance masters including Titian, Tintoretto, Romanino, Moretto, Ludovico Carracci, Bronzino, Barocci and Bernardino Licinio, on loan from prominent museums around the world. These works lead the visitor into one of those existential labyrinths that every human being must grapple with, and which is reflected in amorous experiences, from falling in love to getting married, from abandonment to nostalgia.

(Labyrinths of the Heart. Giorgione and the seasons of sentiment from Venice to Rome, Palazzo Venezia and Caste Sant’Angelo in Rome, until Sept.17)