(b. 1477, Castelfranco, d. 1510, Venezia)

Portrait of a Young Woman (Laura)

Oil on canvas mounted on panel, 41 x 34 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

This painting has been altered over the centuries, first transposed into an oval picture and then restored back to a rectangular one. Originally the figure extended below the waist, and there was more space above. The effect was one of much less immediacy for the viewer than is the case today in its cut-down version and was more in keeping with the remoteness of Giorgione's images as we know them. Like all of Giorgione's pictures, enigmatic aspects persist; the subject is unspecific, although the artistic intention is the presentation of the surface beauty, the soft flesh juxtaposed against the fur of the luxurious garment, the dark eyes, shining and alert, the thin veil enticingly but gently winding around the exposed breast. The laurel branches, which give their name to the figure, are painted with considerable realism and permit the head to be silhouetted before a neutral gray-green halo of leaves, isolated from the deep-toned background, not unlike Leonardo's Ginevra de' Benci. Leonardo's influence has often been noted in Giorgione's art, most particularly in the softening of the contours.

This young woman is perhaps a courtesan and a poet, the combination of which is not unknown in Renaissance Venice. Her name is assumed to be Laura because of the depiction of laurel springs behind her. The sensuousness of the representation, the soft flesh of the breast against the fur of her garment, is consistent with the delicacy of treatment in the medium of oil paint, of which Giorgione was an unequaled master.

It is assumed that the sitter probably was also the model of the Tempest.

The painting is dated and signed on the back side. It belonged to the collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in Brussels, as shown by the painting of David Teniers (now in the Prado, Madrid).