By Christopher S. Wood
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Extra info for Albrecht Altdorfer and the Origins of Landscape: Revised and Expanded Second Edition
Many readings have been put forward, from Mars and Venus, to Adam and Eve, to Fortitude and Charity; none has prevailed. The figures look as if they might be involved in some drama, and the setting looks as if it might be invested with symbols. But nothing is quite clear; prior iconographic traditions are at once invoked and distorted. Even landscape, for Settis, is subject-matter. This debate has been hobbled by imprecise terminology. Giorgione’s Tempest is surely not devoid of subject-matter.
The independent image was thus by no means to be taken for granted. The professional painter trying to pursue a career in this stormy climate had to secure his audience, and one way of doing this was to address that audience directly. Style – the heteroclite and unrepeatable mark – fixes the beholder’s attention. The deictic trace implores the beholder to stay within the frame, to resist turning elsewhere for a narrative or a context that will justify the picture. This is essentially what Altdorfer was doing in his own time: authenticating the image with a rhetoric of personality that was only legible within the image.
Venetian brushwork and palette immediately warned beholders either to drop their iconographical antennae, or to keep them raised and savour the vain effort to clear up the muddle. The Florentine Vasari, only two generations later, was stumped by Giorgione’s frescoes on the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, the German merchants’ compound at the Rialto. Giorgione, he complained, had thought only of fashioning fanciful figures and displaying his art. Vasari found the frescoes unreadable. ’ But plenty of amateurs relished indeterminacy.
Albrecht Altdorfer and the Origins of Landscape: Revised and Expanded Second Edition by Christopher S. Wood