Sunday, February 10, 2019

Giorgione's Painting "La Vecchia" Gets a Facelift Before Traveling from Venice to the USA

Before & After restoration: Giorgione, La Vecchia (particular) © Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venezia
(Venice, Italy) The portrait that the mysterious Venetian artist Giorgione painted of his mother, La Vecchia (The Old Woman), around 1508-1510 is heading to the States after a fresh nip and tuck.

On Thursday evening, February 7, we had the opportunity to see La Vecchia in her new splendor before she takes center stage at the Cincinnati Art Museum in Ohio from February 15 to May 5. After that she is going on the road again to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut from May 14 to August 4. Quite a journey for a painting that is over 500 years old.

La Vecchia by Giorgione - Photo: Cat Bauer
Normally the haunting image of La Vecchia resides at the Accademia Gallery here in Venice, still in its original frame. Unlike the idealized female images of the Renaissance, her face reflects the passage of time. Her soulful eyes connect to ours with a melancholic gaze. Her finger points to her chest. A message written on a scroll is tucked into the cuff of her sleeve: "Col Tempo" -- "With Time." That message from 500 years ago reaches us here in the present and still makes us think.

Giorgione is the rock star of Venetian artists, intriguing because little is known about him, yet his paintings were ground-breaking for the time. Born in 1477 or 1478, he died young, at age 32 or 33, probably a victim of the plague. He was already notable enough at age 23 to meet Leonardo da Vinci, when the great artist came to Venice. And when we contemplate La Vecchia... what young artist paints a portrait of his mother looking like that?

The evening at the Accademia was a chance to see three paintings of Giorgione that were once part of the collection of Gabriele Vendramin (1484-1552); the collection was one of the "marvels of Venice." Gabriele was member of a Venetian family that rose to the aristocracy after helping the Republic during the war against Genoa to recapture Chiogga in 1381. Gabriele commissioned works from both Giorgione and Titan, the founders of the Venetian school of the Italian Renaissance. Gabriele was a descendant of Andrea Vendramin, Doge of Venice from 1476 to 1478.

The Tempest by Giorgione (detail) Photo: Cat Bauer
The restoration of La Vecchia was financed by the Foundation for Italian Art & Culture, a non-profit, US incorporated organization established in New York City in 2003. According to its website, "FIAC's main purpose is to promote the knowledge and the appreciation of the Italian cultural and artistic traditions from the classical period to modern times in the United States and it works in closely with the Italian Ministry of Culture to accomplish this mission." There are some heavy hitters on its Board of Directors, including the Italian writer Alain Elkann, and Armando Varricchio. the Italian Ambassador to the United States, who happens to be Venetian.

We know that La Vecchia was part of the collection of Gabriele Vendramin because an inventory was recorded of his assets after his death, and one entry read: "The portrait of the mother of Zorzon by Zorzon's own hand supplied with a painting of the arms of the house of Vendramin."

The Concerto by Giorgione - Photo: Cat Bauer
The other two paintings from the Gabriele Vendramin collection are The Concerto, generously loaned to the Accademia for five years by its owner, and the elusive The Tempest, a painting that has puzzled humanity for centuries, and is part of the permanent collection of the Accademia. When you look at the dates, it would seem that at around age 23, whiz kid Gabriele had commissioned the evocative The Tempest by Giorgione, who himself was only around 30-years-old! It is astounding that 500 years ago, a young nobleman was commissioning works by young artists -- his peers -- so powerful that they are still considered masterpieces today.

La Vecchia draws a crowd - Photo: Cat Bauer
The crowd at the Accademia was standing-room-only for the event, with many disappointed visitors turned away. So, if you find yourself in Cincinnati from February 15 to May 5, or in Hartford from May 5 to August 4, be sure to take the rare opportunity to see La Vecchia with your own eyes before she comes back home to Venice in August.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. Giorgione is the rock star of Venetian artists, intriguing because little is known about him, yet his paintings were ground-breaking for the time.