Artibus et Historiae no. 78 (XXXIX)

2018, ISSN 0391-9064

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ANDREA POLATI - An Impossible Giorgione: The Allegory of Human Life and the Cassinelli Collection in Genoa (pp. 185–199)

The present essay deals with the Allegory of Human Life (‘Simbolo dell’humana vita’), attributed to Giorgione in Carlo Ridolfi’s Le maraviglie dell’arte (1648). Particular attention has been paid to both literary and visual sources of this iconography, widely diffused in seventeenth-century Venice by Pietro della Vecchia. According to Ridolfi, this painting, allegedly by Giorgione, was owned by the hitherto unknown ‘Signori Cassinelli’ in Genoa. Unpublished documents have helped to determine the identity of Bartolomeo Cassinelli, a Genoese merchant who worked as agent for the Widmann company in Venice from 1633 to 1644. Among these documents there emerges an interesting inventory of Cassinelli’s collection which included a ‘quadro con la contemplatione della vita humana’: the same allegory attributed to Giorgione. Carlo Ridolfi’s detailed description offers also the opportunity to identify a painting by Vecchia that has recently appeared on the art market. Is it a copy after the lost original by Giorgione or a fake? These new findings shed new light on the invention of the Giorgione myth and the reception of his works in Seicento Venice, especially in the milieu of Ridolfi.

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