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The Pastoral Concert

The work in question, The Pastoral Concert, is a painting whose exact author is debated, for reasons related to its style, by either Titian or Giorgione, around 1510 C.E., and falls within the Renaissance period. The almost ghost-like quality of the painting itself lends it a certain mystery, which is ironically reflected in the mystery concerning who painted it. In this regard, the style of the painting itself could be more specifically classified as a foreshadowing of Mannerism, with its almost allegorical and symbolic use of the medium.

Arguably, what is most stylistically distinctive about The Pastoral Concert is the almost hazy composition of the line-work, which works to blend the four depicted figures into their environment. This makes such a ghost-like quality since the work approaches the body not according to depicting its exactness, but rather its presence, and here presence itself is questioned because of the resemblance to specters with this radical use of lighting. Steffanio suggests that “the way that the light on the tree leaves is rendered almost suggests that the canvas was painted outdoors, which would have been completely out of keeping with the methods of the early 16th century.” (38) Titian (or Giorgione) therefore create a new effect in the figures by changing their work habits: moving the work process outside of the atelier affects the style of the work itself.

The work is thus stylistically significant because of “these very atmospheric qualities” (Zuffi, 38) that create the scene. Arguably, in this work it is the entire work itself and that includes its environmental surroundings that are most important, even more important than the figures that are depicted. Or rather, the painting challenges the boundary between figure and surrounding. This gives the work a mystical quality, suggesting it occurs on another level of existence that remains out of grasp and “ghost-like”. It also further represents a Renaissance style because of the Renaissance’s dedication to mythological characters and subject matters that have disappeared in Medieval art under heavy Christian influence.

This is reflected in the stylistic influences that exist in the painting, such as the Renaissance commitment to mythology and pre-Christian culture. The painting tries to capture this mythology by using atmosphere as the crucial part of the style, thus transporting the viewer back in time. Zuffi writes that the entire scene is “enhanced by the vivid evocation of atmosphere and countryside” and this becomes important when we consider pre-Christian religions and pagan religions as tied to a form of nature worship that disappears with the Christian religion. The ghostly meeting in the field becomes the gateway to another dimension, a mysterious symbolic meeting of strange figures for a purpose that remains unknown to the viewer. What is real and what is false in this painting are complicated by the author’s blurring of boundaries and emphasis on atmosphere above all else.

Accordingly, I would suggest it is best to classify The Pastoral Concert, as previously mentioned, as an example of pre-Mannerist painting. This is because symbolism and atmosphere and a complex relationship of forms are made crucial. The mythological elements of the Renaissance, in this regard, are stylistically taken to their extreme in The Pastoral Concert, founding a mythological world where reality becomes overturned in the light and atmosphere of a magical world.

Works Cited

Zuffi, Stefano. European Art of the Sixteenth Century. New York: Getty, 2006.

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