The Colour Storm (UK) / The Color Storm (US/Can)

Written by Damian Dibben
Review by Karen Warren

It is 1510, the height of the Venetian Renaissance. Giorgione Barbarelli—known as Zorzo—is a young painter, fired by ambition but on the verge of bankruptcy. When a fabulously wealthy German merchant arrives in Venice amid rumours of a previously unknown pigment and a lucrative new commission, Zorzo senses the opportunity for both fame and fortune. However, as he gets to know Sybille, the merchant’s wife, he finds himself drawn into danger, intrigue, and passion.

Little is known about the historic Giorgione, but Dibben takes the few facts known to us, and the handful of paintings ascribed to him, to weave a tale of artistry, courage and fate. The Zorzo of The Colour Storm is both sensitive (in his concern for Sybille and for his apprentices) and enthused by his work. Colour—and finding the exact pigments to use—is a constant preoccupation, yet it is equally important for him to capture the essence of the landscape and the people who inhabit it.

Alongside the art is a constant sense of menace, not just the dangers to Zorzo himself, but the looming threats of plague, and floods, and the Inquisition. The recent invention of printing has led to an explosion of knowledge, and “Pandora’s box [has been] opened”. Yet it is also a time of intellectual flowering, of art and beauty, of music and architecture. The Venice of this novel is a city of artists, a place suffused with creativity and colour. “How wonderful,” says a young artist, “To be alive at such a time.” I loved this book and I thoroughly recommend it.