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Rudolf Schier


This essay analyzes Giorgione‘s Three Philosophersnot by means of the prevailing typological approach but from an historical perspective. The conclusion reached is that the composition depicts the meeting between Sultan Mehmed II and Patriarch Gennadios Scholarios in Constantinople. This thesis is supported by Gentile Bellini‘s drawing of a Turkish man which served Giorgione as a model, by an hitherto unknown early sixteenth-century etching of this historical meeting, and by an equally unknown, more elaborate early seventeenth-century painting of the event. Later renderings of the encounter which also go back to the original etching confirm the proposed interpretation. Attention is paid to the involvement of Taddeo Contarini‘s and of his relatives in the affairs of Constantinople, both before and after the Turkish conquest, which may have provided the impetus for the commission of the painting.