Giorgione (1478 – 1510) was a great painter, as a Venetian Renaissance master, he produced a work that socialism will recognize as one the most important painting: the “three philosophers”.
On this painting - finished in 1509 by Sebastiano del Piombo as Giorgione was already very ill - we can see three men.
The painting depicts indeed, as the title says, three philosophers, and not at all the three magis going to Jesus as he was born, like some reactionary explanations try to say.
In fact, we must here note also that we don't know the real name of the work, as the “three philosophers” name comes from from a writing of Marcantonio Michiel (1484–1552), a Venetian noble interested in art and living at the same time as Giorgione.
But we know that the painting was commissioned by another Venetian, Taddeo Contarini, a merchant often presented as “interested for occult and alchemy.” Which means that he was interested in Neoplatonism, an idealist current in the middle of the debates around Aristotle, Plato, religion, Averroes.
It is also even easy to understand what kind of philosophers are shown in the painting. The one on the right is clearly a Greek; traditionally it is thought that is Aristotle, or Pythagoras.
The one in the middle, an Arab, was always understood as being Averroes.
The third one, totally on the left, was always considered as an European from the Renaissance.
As the one is Greek, another an European from the Renaissance, and the last one an Arab, it can absolutely not be the three magis going to Jesus.
In fact, the painting describes three stages: the Greek philosophy, that began science. The Arab-Persian culture, that continued it. And then Renaissance, that was continuing the process.
Proof of this is that the Greek and the European have in the hands either a scientific document for the Greek, or tools (square and compasses) to measure for the European.
Averroes is here clearly shown as the transmitter – a central theme of humanism, of Latin averroism. That he does not act is logical: he was famous as the “commentator” (of Aristotle).
This is not all.
The philosophers are not only on a hilltop, over a valley. It is often said that there is not only the sun, but another light shining directly on them. It is indeed true, but there is something obvious, that seems nevertheless never seen.
It is exactly above the tools – a square and compasses - of the young philosopher that the new world appears. The tools of the young European are like “opening” a new world, a new society. The rising sun is a symbol of this birth.
The religious tried to say that the three magis were on the break, going to Jesus after having seen in the sky which direction to take. It is absolutely non-sense: it is obvious that symbolically the new society, the town under the rising sun, is like a product of the tools of the young European.
This is conform to the principle of humanism.
And what is also the young European measuring? A cave.
Any person knowing a bit of philosophy knows about Plato's Allegory of the Cave : the humans are like in a cave, they only see shadows, that they take for reality. In this painting, we see that the philosophers are outside the cave, that the light, which produces the shadows in the cave, shines directly on them.
The philosophers are free, they understood reality, and they show the way for wisdom.
They see the real light (of truth, wisdom, happiness, goodness, etc.) and not the shadows, like the common people do because it is imprisoned in a wrong way of thinking (the fact that Plato and Aristotle are not opposed here is not a surprise; at the Renaissance and before, it was common to believe that they had the same conceptions; this is a product of wrong authors names on some books).
In this sense – but here we have no proof at all – the three philosophers may also be in direct opposition to the three impostors, like the The Treatise of the Three Impostors depicted at the end of the middle ages Moses, Christ and Muhammed.
But let's let the research about it to the searchers, without illusion indeed, because the decadent bourgeoisie can certainly not accept that it was different in the past, that it was progressive, opening the door to science, to materialism... Opening the door in a free acceptance of the universal aspect of this quest.
As soon as it began to get national, the bourgeoisie let the capitalism develop itself – a good aspect, but that made the bourgeoisie moving always more outside of materialism.
In this sense, only socialism can recognize the veritable value of the “three philosophers”. Only dialectical materialism can understand the symbolic value of this work, its artistic historical value, its expression of a whole period of a part of humanity that counts for humanity as a whole: the Renaissance.