The 'Concert Champetre' and Gilding the Lily


NOT long ago the Louvre's Concert champêtre (Fig.62) received a Neoplatonic reading. The subject of this famous though only vaguely understood painting was said to be quite precise and definite: the Earthly and Heavenly Venuses in company with two personifications of Love, one the son of Poverty, the other the son of Plenty. The textual source cited is Ficino's De amore, his commentary on the Symposium. The Venetian painter, be he Giorgione or Titian (Broun favours the former), emerges from this interpretation as one more renaissance artist collaborating, according to the Albertian model, with an advisor learned in Latin. This should arouse our suspicions. Many other Venetian paintings, including most prominently the reclining female nudes, have come to seem increasingly distant from that model. They are generally interpreted as less iconographically elaborate than had been thought during the heyday of Panofskian art history. Yet Broun's Neoplatonic reading is by no means preposterous. It will not be refuted decisively by the alternative interpretations now on the table, such as that the two women signify passive Mother Nature, the men creative and intense spirituality, or simply that there is no more subject than that implied by the modern-day title.


Art and Art History

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The Burlington Magazine


The Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd.

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