And in a nod to the historians’ endless back-and-forth on questions of authorship concerning Giorgione’s oeuvre, the show asked visitors to weigh in. Portrait of a Young Man (1497–1499), for example, has been variously labelled as a Giorgione and a Titian, with leading experts on both sides of the debate. The exhibition presented arguments for each artist and allowed viewers to vote (Giorgione won, 55 to 45 percent).
While Giorgione will always remain a shadowy figure in art history, we know enough to sketch a rough biography of the Italian painter, who died in his early thirties. He was born around 1478 in the Veneto town of Castelfranco. And we know that at some point he moved to Venice—he died there in 1510 of the plague. Legend has it that he was a handsome, talented musician who, as Vasari wrote, “sang divinely” and played the lute. He was also likely a large man, as Giorgione translates to “Big George.”
“I have always thought it rather apt that we know so little about Giorgione, as I think he would have liked it that way,” Chiswell said. “Mysterious even to his contemporaries, it seems that Giorgione was an artist who liked to ‘cover his tracks.’”