(b. 1500, Treviso, d. 1571, Venezia)

The Presentation of the Ring

Oil on canvas, 370 x 301 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

After a phase of admiring study of Titian and Giorgione, Paris Bordone directed his attention first towards the impetuous art of Pordenone and then towards the intimistic narrative strength of the Brescians, to reach during the 1530s a brief period of equilibrium between sumptuousness of colour, inherited from Titian, and the adventurous freedom of composition learnt from the Mannerists. The universally recognized masterpiece of this period is the canvas Bordone painted in 1534 for the Hall of the Albergo in the Scuola Grande di San Marco.

The subject of the picture is the second part of a legend which was very dear to Venetians. An old fisherman hands the Doge the ring given him by St. Mark as a proof of the help he gave the saint and two other patron saints of Venice, George and Nicholas, by taking them in his boat to the mouth of the lagoon at the Lido in order that they might make the sign of the cross to sink a boatful of demons that were on their way to threaten Venice with a terrible tempest. The naturalness of the scene, so rich in costumes, portraits and Lombardesque architecture, loses something of its intensity because of the theatrical nature of the architectural setting and because of the rhetorical quality of all the physical and spiritual reactions to the extraordinary event. Thus arises a sort of subtle uneasiness which spreads from the centre stage into the architectural wings of the scene and creates the impression of the rarified atmosphere of an event unrelated to time.