Giorgione: The Tempest
Dr. Francis P. DeStefano
Giorgione is the most mysterious and perhaps the greatest of all Venetian Renaissance artists. Mysterious, not only because we know so little about his short life, but also because no other great painter’s work has led to so many questions of attribution and interpretation. One of the few facts that we know about him is that he died in the year 1510 at about the age of 33. His most famous painting, the “Tempest,” measuring only 82 x 73 cm, and now the most popular possession of Venice’s famed Accademia, is regarded as “one of the most enigmatic and famous paintings in the world.”[i]
In 1530, 20 years after Giorgione’s death, Marcantonio Michiel saw the painting that would become known as the “Tempest” in the home of Venetian patrician, Gabriele Vendramin. Michiel described it as “the little landscape on canvas, representing stormy weather and a gypsy woman with a soldier,” and said it was by Giorgio di Castelfranco. Since that time no one has doubted the attribution but it is safe to say that there has never been agreement on the subject of Giorgione’s masterpiece. [ii]
Every interpretation, beginning with Michiel’s, has been disputed and today not one remains standing. Indeed, disagreement about the subject has led some to claim that the painting has “no subject”; that it is simply a beautiful, pioneering work of landscape. This paper argues that the “Tempest” has a “sacred” subject: that it is a strikingly idiosyncratic version of the “Rest of the Holy Family on the Flight into Egypt.” The figures in the foreground are the great difficulty of this interpretation. A young St. Joseph is unusual and a ‘nude Madonna” is unimaginable. What could have led Giorgione to make this leap of imagination?
Any explanation of the subject of the “Tempest,” must identify the nude Woman, the Child, and the Man, as well as their relationship. It must also explain such important features as the broken columns; the prominent plant in the foreground; and the city and storm in the background. All the elements of the “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” are in the “Tempest.”
In the “Biblia Pauperum” the biblical episode of the flight into Egypt was depicted in two ways. In the first, Mary and the Child are astride a small horse or ass being led by St. Joseph. In the second, entitled “The Holy Family in Egypt,” the family has reached the relative safety of Egypt. This second version of the “Flight” would come to be known as “The Rest on the Flight into Egypt” or in Italy, the “Riposo.”[iii]
The traditional scene will usually contain three figures in a landscape. Mary is holding or nursing her baby while Joseph stands off to the side or in the background. Very often Joseph is shown trying to find something for Mary to eat. Painters in the Netherlands, where the subject of the “Rest on the Flight” was very popular, usually added one or more miraculous elements from the apocryphal legends in the background.[iv] Beginning in the latter half of the 15th century Joachim de Patenier, Joos van Cleve, Quentin Massys, Jan van Scorel, and Gerard David all painted many versions of the “Rest on the Flight.”
Italian artists were not far behind. Probably owing to Franciscan influence the Italians tended to downplay the miraculous, apocryphal elements in the story in favor of more “naturalistic“ versions. Contemporaries of Giorgione such as Cima, Correggio, Dosso Dossi, Fra Bartolommeo, Raphael, and Titian all painted versions of the “Rest on the Flight.”
The ruins and broken columns in Giorgione’s painting are important in depictions of the “Rest.” In his classic work on medieval iconography, Emile Male pointed out that of all the legends concerning the “Flight into Egypt,” artists “scarcely used any other than the Fall of Idols.”[v] In this legend all the Egyptian idols crumbled at the approach of the infant Jesus. Male noted that the thirteenth century artists gave an “almost hieroglyphic form” to the legend.
There are neither town, temple, nor priests, as in some works of art from earlier centuries; two statues falling from their pedestals and breaking in two suffice to recall the miracle.”[vi]
In a woodcut from the “Biblia Pauperum” an idol can be seen falling from a tall column.
To depict this episode painters might use elaborate ruins like those in a 1499 version of the “Rest” by Fra Bartolommeo. Others would just use rocks and rubble. Giorgione’s truncated columns are similar to those employed by Luca Signorelli in his 1504 depiction of the “End of the World” in Orvieto’s S. Brisio chapel. One of Signorelli’s advisors on that project was Cardinal Dominico Grimani, the famed Venetian churchman and art collector, who had a summer home in Orvieto. [vii]
In the “Tempest” the Holy Family has left Judea and its dangers, symbolized by the storm, behind. They have crossed the bridge and stream representing the border between Judea and Egypt. They have passed the Egyptian temple with the ruins and broken columns behind them. Now they rest in safety. We notice that the storm is raging in the distance. The woman is bathed in bright sunlight. The glade in which they rest is serene without a hint of wind in the trees.
During the 15th and 16th centuries whenever we see an artistic representation of a nursing mother, it is almost always the Madonna. Moreover, whenever we see a man holding a staff, he is usually St. Joseph. Broken columns and ruins, as Emile Male pointed out, are commonplace in depictions of the Flight into Egypt. When all three elements are put together in a peaceful landscape, it is easily identifiable as a version of “The Rest on the Flight into Egypt.” It is only Giorgione’s departure from the stock or standard images of Mary and Joseph that has deterred scholars from seeing the “Tempest” as a traditional subject.
First, let’s consider the Man. Medieval artists typically portrayed Joseph as an old man but in the 15th century he began to be depicted, especially in Italy, as a younger and even virile protector of the Madonna and Child.[viii] This kind of artistic portrayal corresponded with the well-documented growing importance of St. Joseph in contemporary devotion, a development marked by the inclusion of the feast of St. Joseph in the Roman calendar by Pope Sixtus IV in 1479. A few years before Giorgione painted the young man in the “Tempest” with his staff in his hand watching over the woman and her nursing infant, Raphael had painted the “Sposalizio,” an immediately popular depiction of the marriage of Joseph and Mary. Raphael’s Joseph, like Giorgione’s man, is a young, virile man of about thirty.
In the “Tempest” the man acts as an interlocutor. He stands at the edge of the painting facing us but his over-the-shoulder look at the woman and child directs our attention to them. His posture and clothing also give us a clue about the identity of the woman and child. Edgar Wind described the seeming incongruity between clothed and nude figures in the same painting.
The same ‘philosophy of clothes’ can be studied in Giorgione’s ‘Fete Champetre’ in the Louvre. The nymphs, distinguished from the musicians by the absence of clothes, are meant to be recognized as ‘divine presences’, superior spirits from whose fountain the mortal musicians are nourished…[ix]
In pictures like the “Fete Champetre” and the “Holkham Venus”, Wind also noted “a deliberate paradox of posture:”
the mortal does not face the goddess directly, but turns his head over his shoulder to ‘look back’ at her; he thus enacts…the reversal of vision by which alone a mortal can hope to face transcendent Beauty…[x]
Although Wind did not refer to the “Tempest,” he described the exact posture of Giorgione’s man.
This brings us to the nude Madonna. The explanation lies in the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, a doctrine of which every Venetian would have been aware. Simply put, the doctrine affirms that Mary had been created free from the stain of original sin inherited by every other descendant of Adam and Eve. Indeed, Mary was regarded as the “new” or “second” Eve.
Significant developments in the 15th century had brought the idea of the Immaculate Conception to prominence by the end of the century. In the first place, the century witnessed a continued increase in devotion to the Madonna, which naturally led to an increased interest in the “Conception.” This interest was fostered by religious orders, most notably the Franciscans. Secondly, controversy about the doctrine between the Franciscans and the Dominicans, the two great teaching orders, contributed to its development.[xi]
In 1438 the Council of Basel, no doubt responding to the upsurge of devotion to Mary, affirmed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, but only after Papal legates and others had left the Council. Without Papal support the Council and its decrees could not become binding on the Church. Nevertheless, the concept of the Immaculate Conception had been given tremendous impetus. Nowhere did it receive greater support than in Venice.
Rona Goffen has argued that Venice itself became identified with the Immaculate Conception by the end of the Quattrocento.[xii] Besides the many churches and innumerable altars dedicated to the Madonna, churches like S. Maria dei Miracoli and S. Maria della Carita were dedicated specifically to the “Immaculata.” In 1498, the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception was founded in Venice, and it worshipped at the Frari’s famous Pesaro altar, itself dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.
Two great figures played a key role in the spiritual life of Venice in the 15th century. Goffen has noted the importance of the sermons of St. Bernardino of Siena, who was made a patron saint of Venice in 1470; and of Lorenzo Giustiniani, the saintly first patriarch of the Republic.
In these and other similar passages, Bernardino and Giustiniani declared their belief in the Immaculacy of the Madonna. Their influence on Venetian piety must have been as pervasive during the Renaissance as it is difficult today to gauge in any precise way. Nonetheless, their thoughts and writings constitute part–a very important part–of the original context of sacred art in Renaissance Venice. One must attempt to reconstruct that context in the historically informed imagination.[xiii]
After his death in 1453, Giustiniani’s sermons circulated widely and were finally published in Venice in 1506.
The Papacy also played a role. Francesco della Rovere, the scholarly Vicar-General of the Franciscan order, was elected Pope Sixtus IV in 1471. In the previous year he had written a treatise on the Immaculate Conception in which he had tried to reconcile the differing opinions of supporters and opponents. Subsequently, he added its Feast to the liturgy for the entire Western Church, and ordered new offices to be composed. One was even composed especially for Franciscan use.
Art followed doctrine although the doctrine was a difficult subject to render. After all, it dealt not with Mary’s birth but with her conception. Early attempts in the 15th century had crudely attempted to portray an infant Mary in the womb of her own mother, Anne. By the end of the century this image, which bordered on heresy, was being replaced by a combination of three symbolic images taken from different scriptural sources.
First, there was the image of the woman crushing the serpent beneath her heel from Genesis 3:15. The Latin Vulgate gave this passage as, “inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem et semen tuum et semen illius ipsa conteret caput tuum et tu insidiaberis calcaneo eius.” “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” This image first began to appear in the early 15th century.[xiv]
Secondly, there was the image of the spouse from the Song of Songs 4:7, “Thou art all fair my love, and there is no stain in thee.” In this image, the “tota pulchra es,” Mary is not a Madonna holding her infant Son, but a beautiful woman standing alone and surrounded by images from the Old Testament that symbolize her purity and role. Rona Goffen noted the prevalence of this image in the devotional literature of the time especially in the “offices for the feast of the Immaculate Conception by Nogarolis and by Bernardino de Bustis.”[xv]
Finally, the image of the woman from the Book of Revelation “clothed with the sun” with “stars in her crown” and standing on the crescent moon (which would become the standard after the Reformation) began to appear. These images were rarely used alone but most often in combination. In the Grimani Breviary, named for the Venetian cardinal and art collector who was a contemporary of Giorgione’s, there is a miniature of the Woman of the Apocalypse and the “tota pulchra es.”[xvi] Interestingly, on the facing page in the Breviary there is an image of the “Rest on the Flight into Egypt.”
Advocates of the Immaculate Conception regarded Mary as a new Eve, whose status was the same as Eve’s before the Fall. Giorgione had the audacity to portray a “nude Madonna” as Eve would have appeared before the Fall. In the Brancacci chapel Masaccio’s “Eve” covers her naked body in shame during the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. But before the Fall Masolino’s “Eve” stands in regal, full-frontal nude splendor with no hint of shame. In his discussion of the nudity of Michelangelo’s “Risen Christ,” Leo Steinberg argued that “serious Renaissance artists obeyed imperatives deeper than modesty.”
We must…credit Michelangelo with the knowledge that Christian teaching makes bodily shame no part of man’s pristine nature, but attributes it to the corruption brought on by sin.”[xvii]
Michelangelo completed his nude “Risen Christ” only a few years after Giorgione’s death but there are hints that he thought of treating the sinless Madonna in a similar fashion. In the “Doni Tondo” the Madonna’s arm and shoulder are uncovered as she hands her completely nude infant Son to St. Joseph. In the so-called “Manchester Madonna,” an unfinished version of the meeting with the infant John the Baptist on the return from Egypt, the Madonna stands with one breast fully exposed. There is no evidence that she is nursing her son who stands by her side. Finally, Michelangelo claimed that the youthful features of the Madonna in his famous “Pieta” derived from her sinless state. His youthful Madonna is as idiosyncratic as Giorgione’s nude Madonna in the “Tempest”. There is strange wording in the contract for the “Pieta.” Michelangelo agreed to do a “clothed Virgin Mary with a nude Christ in her arms.” Why specify a “clothed” Mary? Wouldn’t that go without saying? To the best of my knowledge no one has tried to explain the wording of the contract.[xviii]
A “lost” Giorgione, heretofore mis-identified, can provide a clue not only to his familiarity with the legends surrounding the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt but also to his depiction of the Woman in the “Tempest.” In 1525, five years before he saw the “Tempest”, Marcantonio Michiel noticed a painting in the home of another Venetian patrician, Taddeo Contarini, and described it as a “picture on canvas, representing the birth of Paris, in a landscape, with two shepherds standing.…” Michiel noted that it was one of Giorgione’s “early works.”[xix]
This painting has been lost, but copies exist from the 17th century. The editor of the 1903 translation of Michiel’s notes cited a description in an “old manuscript catalog of the time.”
A landscape on canvas, in oil, where there are on one side, a half nude woman and an old man, seated, with a flute.[xx]
One of the copies, made by David Teniers around 1655, is currently in a private collection but was discussed in two recent catalogues. The authors of both catalogues agree that it is a copy of an early Giorgione and also accept, although with some puzzlement, Michiel’s identification of the painting as “the birth of Paris.”[xxi] This is an important painting since scholars have used it to demonstrate Giorgione’s interest in the story of Paris.[xxii] However, details in this early Giorgione indicate that it has quite a different subject than the one imagined by Michiel.
The subject of this “lost” Giorgione comes from a legendary episode on the flight into Egypt. Here is the version from the apocryphal “Arabic Gospel of the Infancy.”
Joseph and the lady Mary departed and came to a desert place, and when they heard that it was infested with raids by robbers, they decided to pass through this region by night. But behold, on the way they saw two robbers lying on the road, and with them a crowd of robbers who belonged to them, likewise sleeping. Now these two robbers, into whose hands they had fallen, were Titus and Dumachus. And Titus said to Dumachus: ‘I ask you to let these (people) go free, and in such a way that our companions do not observe them.’ But Dumachus refused and Titus said again: ‘Take from me forty drachmae and have them as a pledge.’ At the same time he reached him the girdle which he wore round him, that he might hold his tongue and not speak.[xxiii]
In Legends of the Madonna Anna Jameson called the encounter with the robbers an “ancient tradition,” and added another detail. After the acceptance of his offer, “the merciful robber led the Holy Travellers to his stronghold on the rock, and gave them lodging for the night.”[xxiv]
The landscape in the background of the painting is commonplace in depictions of the flight into Egypt. The stream is often seen in versions of the “Rest.” It was used by the Madonna to either bathe or to wash the swaddling clothes of her Son.
Bathing might explain Mary’s exposed leg and arms but the disarray of her clothing could also be Giorgione’s way of representing her obvious danger from the robbers. In any case she sits with her back to Joseph with her eyes intent on her Son, her real protector. Joseph is portrayed as an elderly graybeard as in Giorgione’s well-known Nativities. The infant Christ lies on a white cloth and returns his mother’s imploring look.
The two men on the right side are not shepherds but robbers. A Giorgione shepherd would be kneeling or bending over the Child in adoration. The one with the red jacket has just convinced the other to leave the Holy Family in peace. He has taken off his “girdle” leaving himself somewhat exposed and given it to the other who is in the process of fixing it around his waist. The band of robbers can be seen lounging in the middle ground. Joseph’s flute recalls the well-know verse from Juvenal: “A wanderer who has nothing can sing in a robber’s face.”[xxv]
Anna Jameson noted that she only had seen two versions of the this episode, one by Zuccaro and the other by Giovanni di San Giovanni, but the story must have been popular since the legend also claimed that the two robbers were the same two thieves who would be crucified years later on each side of Jesus. In this early work Giorgione was “stretching the envelope” with a presentation of a disheveled and partially nude Madonna. Later he would go even further in the “Tempest.”
In the “Tempest” the nursing Woman is completely nude. There is no sign of any clothing. She only sits on a white cloth that envelopes her Child and covers her shoulders. The white cloth is very significant. A few years after Giorgione’s death Titian painted a white veil on his Madonna in the Frari’s Pesaro altarpiece. According to Rona Goffen this white veil “recalls the winding cloth, ritualized as the corporale, the cloth spread on the altar to receive the Host of the Mass.”[xxvi] Franciscan piety regarded the Madonna as the altar and her infant son as the Eucharist.
In front of the “nude Madonna” there is a scraggly bush rising out of bare rock. Given its prominence in the painting it is surprising that no one has tried to make an identification. From the way it is growing and the shape of the stems and roots, the plant appears to be a member of the nightshade family, a common plant found in Italy at the time.[xxvii] The most well known form of nightshade is the “deadly nightshade” or aptly named “belladonna,” a plant associated with witchcraft and the Devil. The part of the plant below the “heel” of the woman has withered and died. Is this Giorgione’s version of the woman crushing the head of the serpent?[xxviii]
The “Tempest” has one subject but more than one level of meaning. On a literal level it represents the escape of the Holy Family from the murderous havoc being visited on the children of Bethlehem and its environs. In the same passage of Matthew’s gospel where Joseph is warned to flee to Egypt, the evangelist records the plight of the ”Holy Innocents,” and recalls the prophecy of Jeremiah,
A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loudly lamenting: it was Rachel weeping for her children,…because they were no more.
The solitary bird on the rooftop in the background of the “Tempest” has hardly been noticed or discussed in all the scholarly literature but it recalls the lamentation of Rachel.[xxix] The source for the bird can be found in Psalm 102, one of the seven Penitential psalms. (Jerusalem Bible 102, v.7-8).
I live in a desert like the pelican,
In a ruin like the screech owl,
I stay awake, lamenting
Like a lone bird on the roof;
On a metaphorical level the “Tempest” represents the situation of Venice and Padua during the Cambrai war. Some scholars have argued that the city in the background of the “Tempest” is Padua.[xxx] There is a faint emblem of Padua’s Carrara family on one of the buildings, and the domed building (which could be Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock) could be Padua’s Carmine. There is no agreement on a date for the painting, but in the spring of 1509 the forces of the League of Cambrai inflicted a disastrous defeat on Venice at the battle of Agnadello. As a result the Republic lost all of its possessions on the mainland, which it had worked so hard to acquire over the preceding hundred years. Padua, its crown jewel, fell but then was retaken two months later only to be besieged over the summer by the forces of the enemy. Just as in Giorgione’s painting storm clouds were raging over Padua, 30 miles in the distance.
The small size of the “Tempest” indicates that it was done not for public display but for a private patron. Perhaps in this time of great peril, Giorgione’s patron, like Venetians in general, saw fit to turn not to the pagan gods and goddesses of ancient times but to the Madonna and her Child. While storm clouds might rage over Padua, Venice would find safety not only behind its lagoons but also in its identification with the Immaculate Conception.
In “The Encounter with the Robbers in the Desert” Giorgione did not attempt to hide the subject of that early work. If no one has recognized its subject from Michiel’s time to ours, it is because the very popular apocryphal legends have largely been forgotten. Much the same thing has happened with the “Tempest.” Starting with Marcantonio Michiel its subject has eluded identification. Giorgione did remove all but the bare essentials from his depiction of the “Rest on the Flight into Egypt,” but we have also lost touch with the religious devotion of Renaissance Venetians.
Nevertheless, today Giorgione’s “Tempest” is the most popular painting in the Accademia. Even without understanding its subject, people stand in front of this masterpiece with a mixture of awe and reverence on their faces as if they sense its real meaning.
In the “Tempest” Joseph stands on a plane beneath the Madonna and draws our attention to her. There “clothed with the sun” she sits on a raised earthen throne nursing her innocent Child who is destined to return to Judea and face the same fate as the Holy Innocents slaughtered by King Herod. The Madonna looks out and invites the viewer to enter the picture and follow her Son on His journey. ###
Dr. Francis P. DeStefano, 7/19/2009
[i] Sylvia Ferino-Pagden and Giovanna Nepi Scire: exh. cat. Giorgione, Myth and Enigma, Vienna, Kunsthistorische Museum and the Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale Veneziano, 2004. p. 11.
[ii]See Salvatore Settis, Giorgione’s Tempest, Chicago, 1990 for a summary of most of the interpretations. Settis offered his own but since then scholars have continued to come up with new and different interpretations. See also Giorgione, Myth and Enigma, op. cit. catalog entry #7 and passim. Also see Wolfgang Eller, Giorgione Catalog Raisonne, Petersberg, 2007.
[iii] The Bible of the Poor, (Biblia Pauperum), a Facsimile and Edition of the British Library Blockbook C. 9 d. 2, translation and commentary by Albert C. Labriola and John W. Smeltz, Pittsburgh, 1990.
[iv] For a very full discussion see Sheila Schwartz, “The Iconography of the Rest on the Flight into Egypt,” unpublished doctoral dissertation, New York University, 1975. Schwartz’s dissertation was used extensively in Carolyn Wilson, St. Joseph in Italian Renaissance Society and Art, Philadelphia, 2001.
[v] Emile Male, Religious Art in France, The Thirteenth Century: A Study of Medieval Iconography and Its Sources, Princeton, 1984. p. 220.
[vi] Ibid. p. 221.
[vii] Creighton Gilbert touches very briefly on Signorelli’s use of broken columns in How Fra Angelico and Signorelli Saw the End of the World, Penn State, 2003. p. 139. Significantly, he also discussed the role of Cardinal Grimani. p. 81.
[viii] “In German pictures, Joseph is not only old, but appears almost in a state of dotage, like a lean, wrinkled mendicant, with a bald head, a white beard, a feeble frame, and a sleepy or stupid countenance. Then again, the later Italian painters have erred as much on the other side; for I have seen pictures in which St. Joseph is not only a young man not more than thirty, but bears a strong resemblance to the received heads of our Saviour.” Mrs. Jameson, Legends of the Madonna, Boston, 1885. pp. 271-2. Modern scholars don’t like to use Mrs. Jameson but she was an eyewitness of an incredible array of art before the beginning of the art-historical era. It is likely that many of the paintings she saw were subsequently ruined, dispersed, or lost.
[ix] Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance, New Haven, 1958. P.123, n.1.
[xi] For a comprehensive discussion of the doctrine and the controversy surrounding it see The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, History and Significance, ed. Edward Dennis O’Connor, University of Notre Dame Press, 1958, c. VI. See also the article on the Immaculate Conception in The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910.
[xii]Rona Goffen, Piety and Patronage in Renaissance Venice, Yale, 1986, p. 154.
[xiii]Goffen, op. cit. p. 79.
[xiv]For a discussion of these images see Maurice Vloberg, “The Immaculate Conception in Art,” in The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, University of Notre Dame Press, 1958, pp.463-507.
[xv] Goffen, op. cit. p.149.
[xvi]The Grimani Breviary, Levenger Press, DelRay Beach, Florida, 2007, plate 109. See also, Vloberg, op. cit. plate XIV.
[xvii] Leo Steinberg, The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion, New York, 1983. p. 18.
[xviii] For a fuller discussion of Michelangelo and the Immaculate Conception see Kim E. Butler, “The Immaculate Body in the Sistine Ceiling,” Art History, v. 32, Issue 2, pp. 250-289 (online version published 4/6/2009).
[xix] The Anonimo, Notes on Pictures and Works of Art in Italy made by an Anonymous Writer in the Sixteenth Century, ed. George C. Williamson, London, 1903. p. 104.
[xx] ibid. note 1.
[xxi] Jaynie Anderson, Giorgione, 1997, p. 317; and Wolfgang Eller, Giorgione Catalog Raisonne, Petersburg, 2007, pp. 171-173.
[xxii] See Jurgen Rapp, “The ‘Favola’ in Giorgione’s Tempesta,” Giorgione, Myth and Enigma, p. 119, and Enrico Maria dal Pozzolo, Giorgione, 2009, pp. 32-5.
[xxiii] Extract from the Arabic Infancy Gospel in Edgar Hennecke, New Testament Apocrypha, edited by Wilhelm Schneemelcher, English translation edited by R. McL. Wilson, Volume One, Philadelphia 1963. p. 408. On the web a search for theFirst Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus, Chapter. VIII, will give the story with slightly different wording.
[xxiv] Jameson, Legends of the Madonna, Boston, 1885. pp. 361-362. Mrs. Jameson noted that the encounter with the robbers has been “seldom treated” as an artistic subject but did indicate that she had seen two representations. “One is a fresco by Giovanni di San Giovanni, which, having been cut from the wall of some suppressed convent, is now in the academy at Florence. The other is a composition by Zuccaro.” In a later edition she provided a sketch of the Zuccaro “Encounter,” which shows Joseph assisting the Madonna down from the Ass at the behest of the armed robber.
[xxv] Juvenal, Satires, X, 22. I thank Dr. Karin Zeleny of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna for the Juvenal reference.
[xxvi] Goffen, op. cit. p. 114.
[xxvii] I owe this identification to my brother, Robert DeStefano, a gifted teacher and a master botanist.
[xxviii] Salvatore Settis in 1990 interpreted the subject of the “Tempesta” as Adam and Eve after the expulsion from the Garden and saw the root beneath the woman’s feet as the “serpent” slithering into the rock. He did not identify the plant. Settis, op.cit. p. 115.
[xxix] In his 2007 catalog, Wolfgang Eller mentioned the bird but could not make a positive identification or offer an explanation.
[xxx]See Paul H.D. Kaplan, “The Storm of War: The Paduan Key to Giorgione’s Tempesta,” in Art History, Vol. 9, No. 4, December, 1986; and Deborah Howard, “Giorgione’s Tempesta and Titian’s Assunta in the Context of the Cambrai Wars,” in Art History, Vol. 8, No. 3, September 1985.