Giorgione’s painting of an old woman is among the most startling and engaging images of the Italian Renaissance. Depicted in half-length with her body turned to the side, the wizened figure looks directly at us and points to herself. Her mouth is open, as though speaking, and she sends us a text message—a slip of paper emerging from her sleeve inscribed col tempo (with time). Remarkably, the painting retains its original decorated oak frame.
Giorgione created both a portrait and an allegory of time or mortality. In the woman’s skin, teeth and hair the effects of age are rendered unsparingly, and yet with a depth of humanity. La Vecchia (The Old Woman) is a treatise on an image’s ability at once to convince and deceive, to attract and repel, to represent and allude. It embodies the power and complexity of the art of painting at one of its most experimental moments.
Although he had a short career and created relatively few works, Giorgione is regarded as the founder of the Venetian Renaissance for his innovative approach to landscape and portrait painting in the years around 1500. La Vecchia embodies the mystery and intrigue that has long defined Giorgione’s artistic personality, as well as the unsettling power of his unique combination of realism and illusionism.