Rare Renaissance Drawing Discovered in Library’s Rare Books & Special Collections

Georgione’s sketch of the Madonna and Child and the inscription.
Credit: Sarah Lorien.

For the first time in centuries, in a copy of Dante Alighieri’s Commedia (Venice, 1497) owned by the University of Sydney Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections, Academic Liaison Librarian Kim Wilson discovered an inscription and sketch by Renaissance Artist Georgione dating back to over 500 years ago in the back pages of the book.

The inscription confirms Georgione’s birth year and exact date of death which has previously been unknown, and the sketch is thought to represent a first thought for Georgione’s paintings Benson Holy Family and Virgin and Child.

An Italian Renaissance painter, Georgione’s life was shrouded in mystery for centuries, with the exact date of his birth and death remaining unknown until now.

In the back pages of the 1497 copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy, is the red chalk drawing of Madonna and Child, a technique developed by Leonardo da Vinci fifty years earlier. The drawing is one of only two ever to be attributed to Georgione.

An article in The Burlington Magazine March 2019, No. 1392 – Vol 161, written by Kim Wilson and  Professor Jaynie Anderson (Melbourne University), Professor Nerida Newbigin (University of Sydney) and Julie Sommerfeldt (manager of Rare Books and Special Collections) argues that
Georgione is the artist behind the drawing and potentially the owner of the rare copy of Dante’s famous text.

Little is known of the 36-year-old’s life, though historians have speculated the painter was illiterate.

Kim Wilson, Academic Liaison Librarian and Julie Sommerfeldt, Manager Rare Books and Special Collections. Credit: Sarah Lorien.

“It was a serendipitous finding that will allow art historians to rewrite
Georgione’s place in history, as one of Bellini’s apprentices” said Ms Wilson.

After discovering the drawing, Ms Wilson sought the expertise of Emeritus Professor Nerida Newbigin from the University’s Department of Italian Studies, to translate the inscription written in Venetian at the top of the page on which the drawing appears. [PIC]

Professor Newbigin confirmed the inscription read:

“On the day of 17 September, Georgione of Castelfranco, a very excellent artist died of the plague in Venice at the age of 36 and he rests in peace.”

Professor Jaynie Anderson from the University of Melbourne, said, “Not only does this give the precise date of Georgione’s death, but also indicates a birth date, providing bookends to his life. This is particularly significant given he was said to have had an ‘impossible biography’ for centuries.”

While the exact date the University of Sydney Library obtained the book is unknown, records indicate the book was a donation to the library sometime between 1914 and 1959.

The drawing may represent a first thought for The Holy Family, which resides in the National Gallery of Art in Washington or Adoration of Kings, which is in The National Gallery in London.

Georgione (Venetian, 1477/1478 – 1510), The Holy Family, probably c. 1500, oil on panel transferred to hardboard

A copy of the book can be viewed online through the Library’s Digital Collection platform here.

New Library Services Platform Drop-in Sessions

With the New Library Services Platform now live, drop in sessions are available for interested staff and students to see the new Library Search portal and ask questions.

There is no need to book – Just drop-in on the time and location specified below:

DateTimeLocationEvent link
24/01/20191pm – 2pmFisher Library –R210https://usyd.libcal.com/event/4846092
31/01/201912pm-1pmFisher LIbrary –R213https://usyd.libcal.com/event/4870831
06/02/201910am-11amConservatorium Libraryhttps://usyd.libcal.com/event/4870832
13/02/201911am-12pmHealth Sciences Libraryhttps://usyd.libcal.com/event/4870833
19/02/201910am-11amFisher Library– R210https://usyd.libcal.com/event/4870834
27/02/201910am-11amFisher LIbrary – R210https://usyd.libcal.com/event/4870835
05/03/201910am-11amConservatorium Libraryhttps://usyd.libcal.com/event/4870836
12/03/201910am-11amConservatorium Libraryhttps://usyd.libcal.com/event/4870837
21/03/201910am-11amFisher Library – R210https://usyd.libcal.com/event/4870838
26/03/201910am-11amFisher Library – R210https://usyd.libcal.com/event/4870839

For more information on the new Library Services Platform click here or to chat live to Library staff click here

Rather Thrilling!

The big sleep. Illustrated with photographs from the Warner Brothers first national film. Raymond Chandler (1888 -1959)

With thrillers, suspense doesn’t abate no matter how fast you turn the pages!

For centuries, readers of thrillers have enjoyed being swept up in the tension and psychological peril of the tale. Disastrous possibilities are only as far away as the turn of a page.

Explore the collection of Thriller books from our Rare Books and Special Collections, on display in Fisher Library & SciTech until 27th July.

When: 28th January 2019 – 27th July 2019

Where: Fisher Library, Level 3 Corridor & SciTech Library, glass cabinets

Your new Library services platform

Library online search gets a facelift: read about the new integrated Library search tool for research, teaching and learning.

Science library photo of ramp and books

The new Library Services Platform is a cloud-based tool used to manage information resources including a search portal, called Library Search for discovering library collections. This interface has replaced CrossSearch, the Catalogue, and MyLoans from January 2019.

The new provider for the Library Services Platform is Ex Libris – a major technology provider for research libraries globally. Their customers include Cambridge and Harvard.

The interface was updated in January 2019 and the new Library Services Platform automatically replaced the current platform.

Searching: A new single platform

A separate, traditional library catalogue has been replaced with an integrated single portal, called Library Search. Early feedback from academic staff has indicated that the new Library Services Platform has made it “much easier to find and access specific journal articles”.


Some information from MyLoans, including current loans, will carry over to the new system, however some information will not:

  • Reading (Borrowing) History
  • MyLoans feeds.

FAQs regarding the new system

Who to contact

If you need any assistance, Library staff are here to help. You can contact frontline Library staff by phone, chat, by logging a ticket (outside of chat hours) or in person. You can also contact your Academic Liaison Librarian.

Printer in Residence Applications Now Open!

Wendy Murray, 2018 Printer in Resdience. Photo by Sarah Lorien

Do you know a talented letterpress print-maker?

Following the successful 2018 residency with artist Wendy Murray, the 2019 Printer in Residence program held by the Library is once again taking place this year.  

The Library is now calling for applications from suitably qualified letterpress printmakers and book artists for a residency of 8 weeks, to take place during Semester 2, 2019.

Hand-craft printers and printmakers are invited to propose a project for a print publication or creative work to be made in the Fisher Library workshop housing our Albion Press. Applications close Sunday 3rd March, 2019.

For more information, or to apply, click here

Don’t Panic – Welcome Week 2019!

Don’t Panic! The Library is here for you!

Here at the Library, we are here to support you during your time at the University- and what better way to get to know the Library, the services & facilities we have to offer than Welcome Week 2019!

From Monday 18 to Friday 22 February 2019, we have a jam-packed schedule of awesome activities for you to take part in. Join us in everything from Speed Meet & Chat, Escape Rooms, Karaoke, Printing Press Demonstrations, Library Tours and more!

You can also pick up your very own Library handbook: ‘Don’t Panic, The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Library’.

For more information on the full program of events, click here 

We can’t wait to see you there!