I’m delighted to welcome Sara W. McBride to my blog to introduce her two books.
Please enjoy this special post about the inspiration behind Stealing Giorgione’s Mistress.
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Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard is a collection inspired by Venetian history. The fictional character, Alexis Lynn, wrote these stories in the novel Will Write for Wine by Sara W. McBride, but they are fun stand-alone adventures to be enjoyed with an excellent glass of Italian wine.
What inspired the story, “Stealing Giorgione’s Mistress?”
I’m that weird person who memorizes historical maps and paintings because it’s fun. Over a few years, I noticed the same model was used in both Giorgione’s paintings and Titian’s paintings from about 1510-1515. Then I remembered something I’d read by the famous Renaissance biographer, Giorgio Vasari. From Giorgio Vasari’s The Lives of the Artists (Oxford World’s Classics Edition, 1991, translated by Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella):
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“Since many gentlemen did not realize that Giorgione was no longer working on this facade nor that Titian was doing it, after Titian unveiled part of it these men congratulated Giorgione as friends would when they ran into him, declaring that he had acquitted himself better in the facade towards the Merceria than in the one over the Grand Canal. Giorgione was so offended by this that until Titian had completely finished the work and it had become widely known that Titian had painted that part of it, Giorgione seldom allowed himself to be seen, and, from that time on, he never wanted to be in Titian’s company or to be his friend.”
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There are several historical references regarding the rivalry between Giorgione and his famous student, Titian. A few claims Titian ran off with Giorgione’s mistress, and then both the mistress and Giorgione died of a broken heart. In truth, Giorgione died of the plague in September 1510, and so did his mistress, Violante di Modena.
In the story, “Stealing Giorgione’s Mistress,” I referenced a document dated 1511 which really secured the story for me. It’s from Violante di Modena’s brother requesting permission from the council of Venice that Tiziano Vecellio (Titian) be allowed to return to Venice because of the great services he had performed in frescoing the Fondaco Dei Tedeschi. The petition was granted. I read about this document in a secondary source and admit that I have not found this document, but do not doubt its existence. Such a document lends merit to the idea that in 1509, Titian left Venice in a hurry. Titian escaping Venice without permission solidified in my mind that he had a reason to do so, and that reason might have been that he was escaping with his mentor’s mistress.
Among art historians, there have been five hundred years of debates regarding the attribution of many of Giorgione’s paintings as to whether they are painted by Giorgione, or Titian, or both. Regardless of who painted which canvas, Violante di Modena seems to have modeled for many of them, thus bearing witness to a possible love affair with both great artists.
A fragment of Giorgione and Titian’s central fresco for the Fondaco dei Tedeschi is preserved in the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti, housed in Ca’ d’Oro in Venice. The rest of the fresco fell into the Grand Canal over two hundred years ago. The fragment shows a female figure brandishing a sword. The face looks remarkably like Violante di Modena’s when compared to the other paintings of her by Titian and Giorgione.
Titian ran from Venice to Padua, where he had a commission. Knowing he had work lined up, he should have applied for permission to leave Venice, giving more merit to the idea that he left unexpectedly. His frescos in Padua are his earliest dated works, executed in 1511 as part of the decoration of the Scuola del Santo, and can still be viewed today. Likenesses of Violante, Giorgione, and Titian are all featured in the three frescoes. When viewed with the idea of a love triangle, these three frescoes show the tortured soul and regrets of the artist, Titian.
The Miracle of the Jealous Husband
The Miracle of the Newborn Child
The Healing of the Wrathful Son
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A painting that also possibly features Violante di Modena is Giorgione’s last painting, 1509-1510 – Sleeping Venus. It was finished by Titian. (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden)
Paintings first attributed to Giorgione, dated circa 1510, the year of Giorgione’s death, were then reattributed to Titian, and the dates altered to circa 1515. I speculated that all of these paintings feature Violante di Modena and that Titian painted them, or finished Giorgione’s canvases, to mourn both her and Giorgione’s death:
-Young Woman in a Black Dress (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)
-Violante (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)
–Lucretia and her Husband Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)
-Flora (Uffizi Gallery, Florence)
–Sacred and Profane Love (Galleria Borghese, Rome)
-Woman with a Mirror (Musée du Louvre, Paris)
-Vanity (Alte Pinakothek, Munich)
-Balbi Holy Conversation (Fondazione Magnani-Rocca, Traversetolo)
-Salome, with Titian’s self-portrait head on her plate. It is the same face as the man from the Padua frescoes of Jealous Husband and Newborn Child. (Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome)
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Look up the paintings and the three frescoes. Do you think the same model posed for all of them?
Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard
“If you’re wondering about the story that made Manu so angry, he banished me from Venice, it’s in here.” –Alexis Lynn
Get ready for a fun evening of stories inspired by Venetian history. Thrill to the adventures of money-laundering plague nuns, a pregnant Renaissance man, a demonic Doge at the Devil’s Bridge, and other tales of ghosts, art, and love.
Following in the footsteps of Lord Byron’s obsession with Venetian history, Alexis Lynn wrote these stories in the novel, Will Write for Wine. We proudly share these standalone stories with you over the objection of her paramour Manu, a modern-day Casanova and illegitimate descendent of Lord Byron himself.
So, pour yourself a glass of your favorite vino, let your dog or cat curl up at your feet (or let your cat do whatever it wants), and settle into these mostly … partly … somewhat true tales.
In vino est fictio.
Will Write for Wine
Alexis Lynn is tired of living for others. She chucks her twenty-year scientific career, and possibly her marriage, to write full time in Venice, Italy. But when Alexis gets involved with a flirtatious Venetian, a man who champions her writing, events spiral out of control. The old Alexis knows she should salvage her marriage, but the new Alexis is quickly falling for the charms of this modern-day Casanova. And she doesn’t know which Alexis will prevail. This is going to require a whole lot of wine.
Will Write for Wine: Amazon
Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard: Amazon
Sara W. McBride, like many modern-day biological researchers, invents new swear words to sling at million-dollar machines while locked in a dark hole of a decaying academic hall. This has caused her to witness ghosts and create a romantic fantasy life within her head, which she now puts down on a very non-technological paper with her favorite Jane Austen-style quill pen.
Her first novel in the Alexis Lynn series, Will Write for Wine, and the companion short story collection, Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard, both set in Venice, Italy, were recently released by Puck Publishing. She’s hard at work on the second Alexis Lynn novel, a Regency mystery series, and a haunted play. She strongly feels the world needs more haunted plays.