But Giorgione is still visible behind all this and your eyes are now sufficiently attuned to see him. That is one of the show’s gifts: it invites the viewer to look at many paintings made in the same place at around the same time and recognise Giorgione’s outstanding originality. For that is surely the telling trait. Here was a man who painted himself as David holding the severed head of Goliath that inspired Caravaggio a century later. Here was a man who could paint the most beguiling of all puzzle paintings and produce the portrait that deservedly appears as the climax of this show: of a most vivacious old lady. Her hair is greying, her cheeks wrinkled, the hand at her breast is supposedly saying I am old, as you will one day be, too. Or at least that is the warning written on the slip of paper tucked in her cuff: “With time”. But look at her profoundly subtle face, in all its charm and intelligence, and the message (surely another late addition) is undermined. This is not the kind of allegory of age everyone else was painting but a portrait of a real woman, endearing, humorous, with the light of experience bright in her eye.


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