This new display in the Sackler Wing of Galleries focuses on the art of the Venetian Renaissance during the first 10 years of the sixteenth century – but does it shed new light on this period? 

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Giorgione, Il Tramonto (The Sunset), (c) The National Gallery London.

The aim of the Royal Academy’s latest display in The Sackler Wing Galleries is to give visitors a better understanding of the Venetian Renaissance during the first decade of the 16th century by bringing together around 50 works by celebrated artists of that period.

Stepping into this dimly lit display and looking around the opening section devoted to portraits of the era, it is immediately apparent that curators are allowing the work to speak for itself in telling the story of the rise of Venice’s Golden age of painting.

But the display makes it clear that although Giorgione is featured in the title for the display, there is in fact very little work that is credited to him and it is more a celebration of other similar artists of the era as a whole.

Yet the work of his that is on display does stand out in terms of its ideas and the dreamlike quality that seems to fill his paintings such as in his Il Tramonto (The Sunset) painting that shows a softness in the lines, yet filled with detail and colour that is mesmerising to look at. This is particularly seen in the work Trial of Moses (1496-99) that is filled with life and vivid colour that make it stand out.

The exhibition points out that many of the work created during the opening ten years of the 16th century in Venice were a reaction to the constant threat of the plague or war in the region – offering artists a new opportunity to view life. While this is a great angle from which to work from, it can make the atmosphere of the display seem bleak and sombre that it can be difficult to find any pleasure for the majority of rooms that visitors can walk through.

However, the one section that is filled with hope, tenderness and warmth is the devotional works room. Each piece of work can be seen in a positive light, adding warmth and joy to a display that can seem dispiriting in places. One highlight in this room Giovanni Bellini’s Virgin and Child with Saint Peter, Saint Mark and a Donor that is filled with plenty of texture and colour that is a delight to look at.

While it is Giorgione’s name in the title of the exhibition, it is in fact the work of Sebastiano del Piombo that really takes centre stage, with its life like qualities that really draw the eye and hold the viewer’s attention. A number of his works pop up constantly throughout the display and there is a strong case for the artist to have an exhibition of his own on the strength of the work selected here.

This display is filled with compare and contrast to delight visitors and it is fascinating to see how this decade was influential in the development of the Golden Age of Venetian painting, but it feels as though it is lacking some of the detail that the paintings on display possess to make it truly successful.

In the Age of Giorgione will open at the Royal Academy of Arts on the 12th March and will be on display until the 5th June 2016. For more information and to book tickets visit: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/in-the-age-of-giorgione

 

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