When Giorgione Died: A Rebildungsroman in Two Volumes
Books on the Venetian artist Giorgione appear almost yearly, but this is the first to relate his rare, haunting paintings to the unusual stories--- noirish stories of loss, fraud, and recovery--- surrounding them since the beginning of the 16th century, Though the stories are numerous and full of drama, scholars have chosen to focus on questions of authenticity and meaning in individual paintings such as the Tempest or Sleeping Venus. Taking the opposite approach, subordinating the objects to the intrigues and mysteries in which they've played a part, sometimes a small part as a prop, shows Giorgione to be one of the few Renaissance artists to gain rather than lose importance in our own era when interactive events rather than isolated objects are considered as art.
After introducing the Giorgione phenomenon, this book narrates the downfall and rebirth of an art historian teaching in a study-abroad program in Italy. Her story parallels and activates the Giorgione stories in the manner of a bildungsroman, the novel of individual education and development launched in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship. The approach from outside academic writing makes it possible to address the worldly dimensions of the Giorgione legacy. Over the decades it has become a vehicle for smoke-and-mirror games, none more disturbing than the one perpetrated by advocates of so-called "poetic painting." They've turned Giorgione pastorals into kitsch ideally suited to owners of suburban homes and tourists seeking delightful experiences in Italy. But this neo-bildungsroman does not make the mistake of positing a single, true Giorgione. He is seen instead as a set of illusions and aspirations that can as easily be a trap as a means of transcendence.
With striking color photographs and lively writing, When Giorgione Died is a must-read for anyone who's pondered the strange allure of a Giorgione painting.
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