Standing Man Playing a Viola da Gamba (Violoncello)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909
The present figure is inspired by a similar portrayal of a musician in a pen-and-ink drawing of a pastoral concert by Titian, to whom Bordone was briefly apprenticed.
Whereas Titian's figure is using the bow to point in the general direction of the area circumscribed by the legs of his seated female companion, Bordone's more autonomous figure is playing the instrument. The composition anticipates the poetic depictions of mythological subjects that became popular in the mid-sixteenth century.
Landscape and Pastoral
Today Venice evokes images of a picturesque city rising from the sea. Yet sixteenth-century Venetian artists rarely depicted the lagoon or its atmospheric effects. Instead they documented alpine vistas or created fantastical scenes. Landscape was such an important element of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Venetian painting and drawing that it often dominated even works with mythological or religious subjects. This trend was very much in keeping with the strong interest in the natural world that emerged during the Renaissance, when many artists began to rely on direct observation rather than inherited models. Inspired by the works of the ancient poet Virgil, Venetian humanists extolled the simplicity of pastoral life, and writers, composers, and artists alike embraced Arcadian themes of love, poetry, and music.