A D R I A N S T O K E S
In an unpublished lecture 7 Stokes writes of this painting:
We will be interested particularly in the chipped plinth with stone coping and broken columns, a little piece of ruin to which we cannot attribute any function before it was ruined. There is no apparent architectural function: but I hope I do not speak only for myself in saying that these basic building forms, the cylinder and cube, provide me with the feeling of something perennial brought to bear on the upright young man, and still more on the mother who feeds her baby; perennial not only in the context of structure but of substance and endurance. Notice the rough-joined brick of the plinth and the smooth stone. Such fragments of masonry so often epitomized the sap of things in heroic or elemental form. But never again shall we discover a use as evocative as Giorgione's.
In the same lecture notes he records the aesthetic stimulus, particularly in an Italian light. of "everyday surfaces of smooth and rough stone" of a stepped alley which, gathered up in the simple verticals and wall-faces of the everyday flanking walls "seems to achieve ... a condition of ideal fusion and immutable radiance." Stokes argues that Giorgione was inspired to such achievements as the Tempesta by the common fabric of Venice wherein life is displayed in "the forms of simultaneity" by the "equal showing and fraternal relationship of Quattro Cento architecture."[see image] 8
The simultaneity displayed in Giorgione's art and in the quattrocento architecture of Italy is that of the 'sola occhiata' - the synthetical power of vision which grasps form, space and content at a glance. Stokes's unequivocal affirmation of the "glory of the eye" sites him within the English aesthetic tradition of Wordsworth and of Ruskin who, famously, wrote that "the greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something."
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image © Stephen Kite