[Illustration: ALTAR-PIECE BY GIORGIONE At Castel Franco]
Yet this altar-piece is very beautiful, and, as I say, it grows more beautiful as you look at it, even under such conditions as I endured, and even after much restoration. The lines and pattern are Giorgione’s, howsoever the re-painter may have toiled. The two saints are so kind and reasonable (and never let it be forgotten that we may have, in our National Gallery, one of the studies for S. Liberale), and so simple and natural in their movements and position; the Madonna is at once so sweet and so little of a mother; the landscape on the right is so very Giorgionesque, with all the right ingredients—the sea, the glade, the lovers, and the glow. If anything disappoints it is the general colour scheme, and in a Giorgione for that to disappoint is amazing. Let us then blame the re-painter. The influence of Giovanni Bellini in the arrangement is undoubtable; but the painting was Giorgione’s own and his the extra touch of humanity.
Another day I went as far afield as Padua, also with Giorgione in mind, for Baedeker, I noticed, gives one of his pictures there a star. Of Padua I want to write much, but here, at this moment, Giotto being forgotten, it is merely as a casket containing two (or more) Giorgiones that the city exists. From Venice it is distant half an hour by fast trains, or by way of Fusina, two hours. I went on the occasion of this Giorgione pilgrimage by fast train, and returned in the little tram to Fusina and so, across the lagoon, into Venice, with the sun behind me, and the red bricks of Venice flinging it back.
The picture gallery at Padua is crowded with pictures of saints and the Madonna, few of them very good. But that is of no moment, since it has also three isolated screens, upon each of which is inscribed the magic name. The three screens carry four pictures—two long and narrow, evidently panels from a cassone; the others quite small. The best is No. 50, one of the two long narrow panels which together purport to represent the story of Adonis and Erys but do not take the duty of historian very seriously. Both are lovely, with a mellow sunset lighting the scene. Here and there in the glorious landscape occurs a nymph, the naked flesh of whom burns with the reflected fire; here and there are lovers, and among the darkling trees beholders of the old romance. The picture remains in the vision much as rich autumnal prospects can.
The other screen is more popular because the lower picture on it yet again shows us Leda and her uncomfortable paramour—that favourite mythological legend. The little pictures are not equal to the larger ones, and No. 50 is by far the best, but all are beautiful, and all are exotics here. Do you suppose, however, that Signor Lionello Venturi will allow Giorgione to have painted a stroke to them? Not a bit of it. They come under the head of Giorgionismo. The little ones, according to him, are the work of Anonimo; the larger ones were painted by Romanino. But whether or not Giorgione painted any or all, the irrefutable fact remains that but for his genius and influence they would never have existed. He showed the way. The eyes of that beautiful sad pagan shine wistfully through.