The two friends by Giorgione
An intentionally mysterious painting by one of the most important maestros of the Venetian High Renaissance
The work, exhibited in the Altoviti Room, is now firmly attributed to the hand of Giorgione da Castelfranco (1477-1510), who created it in the early sixteenth century, perhaps in 1502. The painting is a bit ambiguous still today, as we still do not know who the two people portrayed in the image are. The title, which supposes a precise relationship between them, was suggested by art historian Enrico Maria Dal Pozzolo.
Deep in thought, the figure in the foreground rests his head on his hand, in a codified gesture of melancholy, the source of which could be clarified by the bitter orange held in his other hand. During the Renaissance, this type of wild orange was associated with Venus and, because of its sweet-sour flavour, the roller-coaster emotions of love.
The person in the background is much more enigmatic: the sharp, slightly derisive glare intentionally contrasts with the figure in the foreground.
In 1633, the painting was part of the Ludovisi Collection. During the 18th century, it was transferred to that of Cardinal Tommaso Ruffo. Pursuant to the donation from Prince Fabrizio Ruffo di Motta Bagnara, it reached Palazzo Venezia in 1919