The “Casa Pellizzari frieze” by Giorgione: nostalgia for an interrupted story
The “Casa Pellizzari frieze” in Castelfranco Veneto, attributed to Giorgione (1478-1510), is a story in monochrome images, painted between 1502 and 1503 on the top part of the walls in one room of the building, once believed to be the house where the great painter was born.
It is a sixteen-meter-long story that speaks through the items drawn in it: hourglasses, books, compasses, sextants, astrolabes, armillary spheres, shields, bearded scholars’ laureled heads, musical instruments… symbols of liberal and mechanical arts, which however do not make for a serene humanistic journey amongst creative and scientific activities. What we see, instead, is an expression of great distress, due to the grim prediction of a terrible astronomic conjunction for 1503-1504, which astrologists believed would bring war, earthquakes, famine and storms. The frescoes are imbued with awareness about the imminent end of the world, or as art historian Augusto Gentili called it in his “Giorgione” (Giunti, Florence 1999), “nostalgia for an interrupted story”.
Gentili explains what he means: “a longing for his culture, for a harmonious existence modeled after the harmony in the universe. But that harmony does not exist anymore, because it was hopelessly spoiled by fortune’s whims and the stars’ enmity, the wrath of the sky and weakness of men, unprepared to face it with reason.”