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When Giorgione Died: Metaphor-biography-art
by:Elizabeth K. Smith
Giorgione died inVenice in 1510. Aside fromthe year, everything elseabout his passing is supposition.Age? thirty-three, giveor take a few years. Cause ofdeath? the plague, perhaps.Similar uncertainty cloudshis career. He was probably,though not certainly, apprenticedto Giovanni Bellini. Hisoeuvre may consist of six orsixty paintings. Experts havenever...
Giorgione died inVenice in 1510. Aside fromthe year, everything elseabout his passing is supposition.Age? thirty-three, giveor take a few years. Cause ofdeath? the plague, perhaps.Similar uncertainty cloudshis career. He was probably,though not certainly, apprenticedto Giovanni Bellini. Hisoeuvre may consist of six orsixty paintings. Experts havenever reached consensus.Mystery is the keyword whenever Giorgione orhis art is discussed. Masterpieceslike the Tempest andSleeping Venus are said tohave introduced an elementof poetry into Renaissancepainting. But the poetry isgenerally defined so looselyit has little connection toactual poetry of any period.Otherwise, interpretationfalters and lapses into discussionof enigma and mystery.In a radical departurefrom the authors ofprevious monographs onGiorgione, Elizabeth Smithaccepts mystery as the onesolid truth about the artist.Instead of rehearsingunanswerable questionsof meaning or attribution,she examines the metaphorsthat have endowedGiorgione with an enduringrole in the Renaissance andits legacy in the nineteenthand twentieth centuries.These metaphorsgrow from the response tohis death the sudden desireto own a Giorgione andthe refusal of collectors tosell paintings they alreadyowned. Thereafter, the pleasuresand dangers of possessingbecame central to artand writing about Giorgione.By 1900 he was all but synonymouswith art meant tobe a personal prize; themesof self-possession and privacy;the experience of love sojealous it turns destructive.Smith s book will beof interest to students ofliterature as well as art historians.It connects Giorgioneto portrayals of Venice inShakespeare among otherartists. Venice too has longbeen understood throughmystery and jealous love.
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