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Castelfranco Altarpiece essay

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MS-0232

Scope and Contents

The essay which forms this collection is a handwritten document, 5 pages, written in Italian. It is dated Friday, December 2, 1803. The essay describes the restoration in 1803 of Castelfranco Altarpiece, a painting by Giorgione. It is possible that the essay was written by Dominco Maria Federici, a historian, who published works on the art and literature of the Treviso (Italy) region. The essay was found in a copy of Federici's Memorie Trevigiane (1803) which is part of the collections of The Johns Hopkins University. The painting is referred to as "il Giorgione" in the essay, but the corresponding, detailed description in the document substantiates the identity of the work.

The essay noted that prior to 1803, the painting was found to be in such poor condition that the origin could be surmised only by the face of the Madonna. Arriano Balsafiori, a Neapolitan painter living in Venice, restored it to its previous perfection in 1803.

The essay contains an interesting piece of information in that a note on the back of the board reads: "Dear Cecilia, come, hurry up, Yours in waiting, Giorgio Barbarella."

The essay concludes by noting that the town of Castelfranco is proud to own the painting by their own celebrated painter.

A complete translation of the essay is available.

The following title is available in Special Collections:

Federici, Domenico Maria. Memorie Trevigiane. Venezia: Presso Andreola, 1803. (call number NC256 .T8 F4 1803)


  • Creation: 1803 December 2

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Historical Note

The Castelfranco Altarpiece was painted by the renowned Renaissance painter, Giorgione. During the High Renaissance, the church altarpiece was one of the most important expressions of Italian painting, and Giorgione's work is representative of this period.

Giorgione was born in Castelfranco, province of Treviso, Italy in 1477. Treviso was known as a center of Renaissance art and culture. The cathedrals and churches date from the 13th century, and contain paintings and frescoes by Titian, Paris Bardone and Tommasa da Mordena. Giorgione entered the school of Giovanni Bellini around 1494 as a pupil and studio assistant. Eventually, it was Giorgione who supervised the work of Titian. In 1803, Domenico Maria Federici published a historical survey of the region's fine art, Memorie Trevigiane, and he acknowledged the contributions of Giorgione.

In 1504, Giorgione was commissioned to paint the altarpiece for the chapel of St. George in the parish church of St. Liberale, Castelfranco. General Tuzio Costanzo commissioned the painting to commemorate the death of his son, Matteo Costanzo. The painting is of the Madonna and Child enthroned between St. Liberale and St. Francis. The throne bears the Costanzo coat of arms.

Over the centuries, the painting deteriorated and was restored several times. It is known that Mauro Pellicioli took measures to reinforce the whole painted surface in 1931. The painting is referred to as the Castelfranco Altarpiece or the Madonna of Castelfranco. The restored painting is in the Church of St. Liberale, Castelfranco Veneto. Giorgione died in 1511.


0.167 Cubic Feet (5 pages)

Language of Materials



Collection consists of an untitled, hand-written essay written in Italian and dated December 2, 1803. The essay describes the restoration in 1803 of the "Castelfranco Altarpiece," a painting by Giorgione.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The essay was found in "Memorie Trevigiane" (1803) by Domenic Maria Federici and was transferred to the Manuscripts Department.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Joan Grattan in November 1989.

Rachel Gattermeyer revised the scope and contents note in this finding aid in February 2024 to bring it into compliance with Johns Hopkins guidelines for inclusive and conscientious description (2023). The previous version of the finding aid is available upon request.

Castelfranco Altarpiece essay
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA