Hesiod’s Theogony as source of the iconological program of Giorgione’s Tempesta

Hesiod’s Theogony as source of the iconological program of Giorgione’s Tempesta


Published by Leo S. Olschki Editore (Florence)​​​​​​​


Giorgione’s Tempest is one of the most discussed enigmas in the history of art, with over fifty different interpretations, based largely on ancient literary sources which have been compared, not very convincingly, with very few elements of the painting. Hesiod’s Theogony, well known in Venice when the painting was made, explains more or less all of them, animate and inanimate, for the artist translated the poet’s words literally into visual images.


This book explains how Giorgione’s famous picture shows the shepherd Hesiod undergoing his famous vision in which the Muses told him of his poetic mission; on the right the infant Zeus held by his nurse Amalthea one year after being rescued from being devoured by his father Cronus; and the altar of two columns erected by Zeus to commemorate his victory over Cronus, corresponding to his own altar withtwo columns in his birthplace Lyktos. The lightening is, of course, the attribute of Zeus. The muses are not seen, since Hesiod says they are ‘invisible’, but he often mentions their nine houses, shown in the painting.

  • Ursula and Warren Kirkendale

    Hesiod’s Theogony as source of the iconological program of Giorgione’s “Tempesta”: The Poet, Amalthea, The Infant Zeus and The Muses

    March 2018 (first published 2015, Italy)
    Published by Leo S. Olschki
    Distributed by Ad Ilissum 
    ISBN: 978 88 222 6408 4

    Hardback, 150 x 210 mm

    106 pages

  • About the author

    Ursula Kirkendale received her PhD in historical musicology in Bonn and taught at four important American universities, until, in 1971, after only one semester at Columbia University, a speech impairment (ictus) terminated her teaching, but not her research, highly acclaimed internationally, on Caldara, Handel and Bach. Her husband, with a PhD from Vienna, is Professor Emeritus Ordinarius of music history, University of Regensburg, Accademico Filarmonico h.c. Bologna, and Honorary Professor of the University of Pavia. He has published books dealing inter alia with sixteenth-century art in Florence and Rome. The interdisciplinary work of both authors, residents of Rome, has centered on the ‘afterlife of Antiquity’.

  • About Leo S. Olschki Editore

    Leo S. Olschki Editore (Florence) is one of Italy's oldest and most respected publishers of critical works in the humanities.

© 2017 by Paul Holberton publishing