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

Old Woman

c. 1508
Oil on canvas, 68 x 59 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

The presentation of reality by means of a luminous medium which decants the subtlest gradations of colour with extraordinary fidelity and assembles them with immediacy into images of lyrical purity is a feature also of the extremely rare portraits by Giorgione, amongst them this painting of the Old Woman. As with other pictures attributed with certainty to Giorgione hidden meanings have been searched for in the painting though the writing on the scroll - 'col tempo' (with time) - would seem to suggest that its subject is the fading of beauty over the years. Despite the damage suffered by the painting, it is still possible to admire the freedom of touch, the mellow transparency of the medium with which the half figure of the woman is realized and the extraordinary realism with which her lost beauty is explored. The description of the shriveled flesh, the aged eyelids, the toothless mouth, retains nothing at all of the Nordic prototypes and uses colour alone to create an objectively naturalistic image with consummate skill.