Giorgione's remarkable portrait of ageing La Vecchia to be seen in UK for first time

By Richard Moss | 01 March 2015

Giorgione’s unusual portrait of his mother will be seen in the UK for the first time since it was painted in early 16th century Venice

a painted portrait of an elderly woman in peasant clothing and white cap
Giorgione, La Vecchia (circa 1508-10). Tempera and oil on canvas. Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice© Photo © Archivio fotografico del Polo Museale del Veneto. Photography: Quartana, su concessione del Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo
An allegory of temporal transience addressing the passage of time and the process of ageing, Giorgione’s La Vecchia, made in around 1508-10, sits in marked contrast to the idealised women traditionally depicted in Venetian Renaissance portraits of the time.

Part of the collection of the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, La Vecchia was first mentioned in the inventory of the collection belonging to Gabriele Vendramin (1484-1552), where it was described as a portrait of Giorgione’s mother.

It will be visiting UK shores for the first time as part of the Royal Academy’s eagerly anticipated survey of the Venetian Renaissance during the first decade of the 16th century, In the Age of Giorgione, which opens at the gallery on March 12.

While Giorgione (1477/8-1510) appears to represent a single moment, the old woman’s arresting portrayal ultimately leads the viewer to the inscription that reads ‘col tempo’ (‘with time’), a reference to her age and the years passing.

The painting is all the more remarkable for being one of only a few attributed to the elusive Giorgione who, in his short life, forged a new, more poetic type of portraiture and created a serene, bucolic world as a backdrop to both sacred and profane subjects.

By the end of the 15th century Giovanni Bellini had already revolutionised Venetian painting, favouring a new naturalism, but it was the next generation, most notably Giorgione and the young Titian, who became the protagonists of the new style.

La Vecchia will sit among 50-odd works from collections across Europe and the United States exploring this moment in art. Celebrated artists include Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Sebastiano del Piombo and Lorenzo Lotto, and other less well known figures such as Giovanni Cariani.

The exhibition will also consider the influence of Albrecht Dürer who visited Venice in 1505–7.

More pictures from the exhibition:

a painted portrait of a young nobleman with his hand resting on a helmet
Attributed to Sebastiano del Piombo, Portrait of Francesco Maria della Rovere. Oil on panel (transferred to canvas)© Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna Photo (c) KHM-Museumsverband
a religious painting of three male figures surrounding the Madonna and child on a throne
Giovanni Bellini, Virgin and Child with Saint Peter, Saint Mark and a Donor© Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Photo: Birmingham Museums
a painting of two figures in a rocky enclave with a sea and town visible in the distance
Giorgione, Il Tramonto (The Sunset). Oil on canvas© The National Gallery, London Photo (c) The National Gallery, London
a painted portrait of a young man in a pink smock
Giorgione, Portrait of a Young Man ('Giustiniani Portrait') © Gemaldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preubischer Kulturbesitz Photo (c) Jorg P Anders
a painted portrait of a young woman in Renaissance era dress and cloak
Giovanni Cariani, Portrait of a Young Woman© Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest Photo (c) Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
a relief sculpture of two women
Tullio Lombardo, Bacchus and Ariadne, Marble© Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna Photo (c) KHM-Museumsverband
a dark painting of several male figures in Renaissance ware with a woman who seems to be in distress
Titian, Christ and the Adulteress. Oil on canvas© Glasgow Life (Glasgow Museums) on behalf of Glasgow City Council. Archibald McLellan Collection, purchased 1856 Photo (c) CSG CIC Glasgow Museum Collections
a drawing of two figures playing musical instruments beneath a tree
Titian, Two Arcadian Musicians in a Landscape. Pen and brown ink over black chalk on paper© On loan from the British Museum, London (c) The Trustees of the British Museum
  • In the Age of Giorgione is at the Royal Academy of Arts, London from March 12 – June 5 2016.

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