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Giorgio da Castelfranco c1476-78 - 1510 better known as Giorgione was a Venetian painter of the Italian High Renaissance He lived a short life passing away from the plague during his thirties leaving behind a small but beautiful compilation of compositions One of his most famed works is Portrait of a Woman 1506 Figure1 also known as Laura This painting has mystified art history scholars with its interpretation of the sitters identity for centuries Was this a portrait of Venetian courtesan or a marriage portrait of a respectable Venetian woman Despite the credible evidence which support the interpretation that Laura represents a marriage portrait this paper will argue that a visual interpretation of Giorgiones painting undeniably presents Laura as an artistic portrayal of a sixteenth century courtesan One of the most significant features of Giorgiones Laura which serves as a symbol to the sitters identity is the presence of the laurel The inclusion of laurel functions to support alternate interpretations more prominently that the painting is a portrait of a courtesan yet not dismissing it as a marriage portrait of a Venetian woman Foremost the name Laura suggested by the laurel branch which frames the sitters head echoes the use of a pun on the sitters name For instance in both Leonardo da Vincis Portrait of Ginevra deBenci c1480 Figure 2 and Antonio Pisanellos Portrait of Ginevra dEste 1438 Figure 3 the identifying feature of the juniper bush behind the womans head acts as an allusion to her name Ginevra where the Italian word for juniper is genipro Additionally Laura was one of the most common names taken by courtesans of the sixteenth century in Venice thus the laurel could be suggestive of the sitters trade as a courtesan Laurel was also identified as a symbol for literary accomplishments For that reason it may also be a reference to the sitters achievement as a poet during a time when courtesans were
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