gigatos | February 21, 2022
Titian (actually Tiziano Vecellio, probably * c. 1488 to 1490 in Pieve di Cadore near Belluno, then the county of Cadore; † August 27, 1576 in Venice) is considered the leading exponent of 16th-century Venetian painting and one of the principal masters of the Italian High Renaissance. During his lifetime he was often named after his birthplace Da Cadore.
His work coincided with the Golden Age of Venetian painting, when the Serenissima was experiencing its economic and cultural heyday. Titian came to Venice as a nine-year-old child and was trained by the brothers Gentile and Giovanni Bellini. In 1513 he opened his own workshop in San Samuele and became a celebrated artist throughout Europe. In 1533 he was elevated to the peerage by Emperor Charles V and appointed his court painter. In 1545 Titian traveled to Rome at the invitation of Pope Paul III, and in 1548 and 1550 he accompanied Charles V and his son Philip II to the Imperial Diet in Augsburg. When Titian died of the plague at an advanced age in 1576, he was probably the most successful painter in Venetian history.
Described by his contemporaries as “the sun among the stars,” Titian was one of the most versatile and, with a total of 646 works, also the most productive Italian painter of his time. He painted portraits as well as landscapes, mythological and religious subjects. Among his most famous works are Heavenly and Earthly Love, Annunciation, Madonna of the Pesaro Family, Venus of Urbino and Toilet of Venus. Characteristic of his works is his pronounced colorism, which he maintained throughout his life.
Towards the end of his long life, he then made a drastic stylistic break, which already leads to the Baroque and which many art historians see as a return to himself.
Already during his lifetime, Titian”s works were represented in all important collections, such as the Vatican Museums. The ruling families of the high aristocracy, among others the d”Este, Gonzaga, Farnese and the Habsburgs, also bought numerous works for their collections. Titian”s works were received, also during his lifetime, through several engravings and copies. Renowned painters of the 16th century such as Lambert Sustris or Jacopo Tintoretto were strongly influenced by Titian. His painting style and especially his coloring were to have a strong influence not only on his contemporaries, but also on future generations of painters. The range of painters influenced by him spans from Peter Paul Rubens to Antoine Watteau and Eugène Delacroix.
Tiziano Vecellio was born in Pieve di Cadore in the Dolomites, the eldest of four children. He came from a well-to-do family of lower nobility; his grandfather held a leading position in the city administration. His father Gregorio held the post of superintendent at the castle of Pieve; however, it is mentioned in documents only in 1508 during the campaigns of the League of Cambrai. The Dolomites near Pieve had a strong influence on Titian throughout his life. Unlike most of the important Venetian artists, Titian had a strong “continental” influence, which led to a very plastic style by Venetian standards.
His date of birth is still disputed today, as neither certificates nor other written evidence of the birth exist:
Childhood and education (time until 1510)
The exact age of Titian when he arrived in Venice is unclear. It is assumed that he was between nine and twelve years old. It is documented by contemporaries that his talent emerged very early. For the time being, Titian and his brother Francesco were sent to their uncle in Venice to look for a suitable apprenticeship for both of them. In Venice they were then apprenticed to the mosaic painter Sebastiano Zuccato. Zuccato, possibly a family friend, enabled Titian to be accepted into the workshop of the most renowned painters in Venice at the time, such as Gentile and Giovanni Bellini. There he came into contact with a group of young and talented painters such as Sebastiano del Piombo, Lorenzo Lotto, Palma da Serinalta and Giorgione. His brother Francesco Vecellio was also to gain some importance as a collaborator in his workshop.
In 1507, Giorgione, who was already quite famous by then, was commissioned by the city of Venice to execute the exterior frescoes on the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, rebuilt in 1505 under the direction of Antonio Abbondi. Of the frescoes painted until 1509, only fragments remain due to weather damage and are kept in the Galleria Franchetti in the Ca” d”Oro. Apart from these exhibits, which are only preserved in poor condition, only a few etchings by Zanetti from 1760 remain. While Giorgione was commissioned to execute the facade, the younger Titian and Morta da Feltre painted on the less prestigious sides. However, not only for Giorgione, but especially for Titian, the frescoes, highly praised by contemporaries, represented the professional breakthrough.
Subsequently, however, Giorgione and Titian became rivals, although they continued to work together. As a result, the attribution of many of the works created during this period is still disputed today. In recent research, many works formerly attributed to Giorgione are now attributed to Titian; conversely, this has rarely occurred. During their lifetimes, both painters were regarded as founders and leaders of an arte moderna, a new kind of art. Both therefore developed quite quickly into sought-after artists.
After Giorgione”s sudden death in 1510, Titian remained faithful to his style for some time. In 1511 Titian painted the frescoes in the Scuola del Santo in Padua, and a year later he returned to Venice. This brief departure for Padua is often explained by the greater influx of painters from the Terra Ferma into the city of Venice, according to which there was a general decline in prices for art goods, which also forced many important painters such as Sebastiano del Piombo to leave the city.
Career and first important achievements (1510-1530)
The deaths of Giorgione (1510) and Giovanni Bellini (1516) left Titian without serious rivals in the Venetian school. For the next sixty years Titian was to be the undisputed chief master of Venetian painting.
After declining the invitation of the humanist Pietro Bembo to enter the service of the Holy See, Titian received the broker”s patent La Senseria at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, coveted among artists, in 1513. In the same year he opened a workshop on the Grand Canal near San Samuele. It was not until 1517 that Titian received the privileges of a sinecure of the city of Venice, for which he had applied years earlier: he became superintendent of the government. As such, he had to finish, above all, Bellini”s painting in the Great Council Hall. In addition, he was still to replace the damaged 14th century battle depiction in the Sala del Collegio with an oil painting. He entered into another contract with the city of Venice: he received a fixed salary of 20 crowns per year and was also exempted from some taxes. In return, he undertook to paint portraits of all the Doges throughout his life at the fixed price of 8 crowns.
Between 1516 and 1530 Titian abandoned the Giorgionesque style and turned to a more monumental style. During these years he established relations with Alfonso d”Este (he first traveled to Ferrara in 1516), for whom he painted The Feast of Venus (1518-1519), The Bacchanal (1518-1519, both in the Prado, Madrid), and Ariadne auf Naxos (in the National Gallery, London). In Ferrara he became friends with the poet Ludovico Ariosto, whom he portrayed several times. He also came into contact with the Duke of Mantua Federico II Gonzaga, who later became his most important patron. At the same time Titian continued his series of small-format paintings of women and Madonnas. These portrayals of women, probably mostly based on the image of Venetian courtesans, are among the early highlights of his oeuvre. Of importance here are: Madonna and Child (La Zingarella), Salome, Flora, Young Woman at the Toilet. However, the most important work of this period is Heavenly and Earthly Love.
From 1516 to 1518 he painted probably the most important picture of his career, the Assumption of Mary (so-called Assunta) for the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice. In the 19th century, the painting was exhibited for decades in the Accademia in Venice, but then returned to its original place. The Assunta was a sensation at the time. According to Dolce, “The grandeur and awfulness of a Michelangelo and the sweetness and grace of a Raphael are thus united for the first time in the masterpiece of a young Venetian painter.” Even the Signoria took note of the painting, noting that Titian was neglecting his duties in the Great Council Chamber in its favor. In the following years Titian continued the style of the Assunta. This reached its peak with the Madonna of the House of Pesaro (Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice). At this time Titian was at the height of his fame.
In 1525 he married his wife Cecilia, legitimizing their first child Pomponio. Two more were to follow, including Titian”s favorite son and later assistant Orazio. In 1527 he also became acquainted and quite quickly formed a close friendship with Pietro Aretino, whose portrait he painted for Federico Gonzaga. In the same year he met Jacopo Sansovino, who came to Venice as a refugee from the Sacco di Roma. In 1530 his wife died during the birth of their daughter Lavinia. He moved with his three children and convinced his sister Orsa to come to Venice to take over the household. The new house was located in Biri Grande, a very posh part of Venice at the time, which, being by the sea, was known for its view of Murano and the Alps and also for its “lush” gardens.
In 1530 he created the extraordinary Death of Peter Martyr for the church of San Zanipolo (destroyed by fire from an Austrian shell in 1867), already leading to the Baroque era. The only remaining evidence of the painting are copies and engravings. From this he developed a new, more sophisticated style, so that in the period from 1530 to 1550 his creative power once again reached a peak.
In 1532 Titian was commissioned by Federico Gonzaga to visit Bologna, where Emperor Charles V was staying. Titian painted two portraits of the Habsburg, in which he greatly embellished the emperor”s extremely protruding lower jaw, in contrast to his competitor Jakob Seisenegger (Portrait of Charles V with Great Dane of Ulm, 1532, KHM Vienna). As a result, he was appointed imperial court painter and Knight of the Golden Spur on May 10, 1533. His children were also ennobled, which was an extraordinary honor for a painter. The Venetian government, dissatisfied due to the neglect of work in the Doge”s Palace, withdrew his brokerage patent in 1537 in favor of Giovanni Antonio da Pordenone, Titian”s only rival at the time. However, the latter died at the end of 1539, so Titian got the patent back. In the meantime, he dutifully turned to his work at the Doge”s Palace. He had also frescoed the Battle of Cadore (in the great Council Chamber), which had long been promised to the Council and is now preserved only in Fontana”s engraving.
In terms of material wealth and professional success, his position achieved at this time can only be compared to that of Raphael, Michelangelo and, at a later date, Peter Paul Rubens. In 1540 Titian received a pension from the D”Avalos, the Marquis del Vasto and, in addition, an annual payment from Charles V from the treasury of Milan in the amount of 200 crowns (which was later even doubled). Another source of income was a contract concluded in 1542 for the supply of grain to Pieve. He visited his birthplace almost every year and was as influential there as he was generous. Titian usually stayed there in a villa on the neighboring Manza Hill. From here he observed the shape and texture of the landscape, and the insights gained from this are evident in his landscape depictions.
Since 1542, Pope Paul III endeavored to bring Titian to Rome, although the artist did not accept the call until four years later. His goal was a papal fief for his son Pomponio, which would have secured his livelihood. However, this fief was denied to the artist. Nevertheless, he was given a fitting reception and made an honorary citizen of the city, succeeding the great Michelangelo in this dignity. Moreover, he could have taken over Sebastiano del Piombo”s lucrative post. However, this project failed when Charles V ordered him to Augsburg in 1546.
On his way back north from Rome, Titian visited Florence and arrived in Augsburg in 1548, where he painted several portraits of the emperor. The portrait of Charles V in the Munich Pinakothek, long thought to be a Titian work, is – as has since been proven – not by Titian, but by Lambert Sustris. Titian soon returned to Venice, but was called back to Augsburg in 1550 by Philip II. The latter was still one of his main clients after his return to Venice.
Last years of life (1550-1576)
During the last 25 years of his life (1550-1576) Titian worked mainly for Philip II and as a portraitist. The painting Portrait of a Commander dates from this creative period. He therefore began to withdraw more and more from the events in Venice. Due to the fact that he completed many of the copies made by his students himself, there are also great difficulties in attributing and dating his late work. In 1555 Titian was at the Council of Trent. In 1556 he awarded first prize to Paolo Veronese in the evaluation of paintings for Sansovino”s library. In 1566 he was admitted to the Florentine Academy and was given control by the Council of Ten over the prints made from his works. He continued to accept commissions towards the end of his life. At this time his main client was still Philip II, for whom he painted the famous series Poetry with mythological images.
One of his most loyal companions at this time was his nephew Marco Vecellio, also called Marco di Tiziano. He accompanied his master during this period and imitated his painting technique. Marco also left some able works, such as the Meeting of Charles V with Pope Clement VII. (1529) in the Doge”s Palace and Annunciation in the church of San Giacomo di Rialto. A son of Marco, called Titianello, was also active as a painter in the early 17th century.
Titian had betrothed his daughter Lavinia to Cornelio Sarcinelli di Serravalle. According to reports, she was a good-looking young woman to whom he was very attached and whom he painted frequently. After the death of her aunt Orsa, she had taken over Titian”s household. Because of Titian”s handsome income, she attained a secure financial position. In 1554 the wedding with Cornelio took place, but she died already in 1560 during a birth. During this time Titian experienced further heavy blows of fate. His close friend Pietro Aretino died unexpectedly in 1556, and the death of his intimate Jacopo Sansovino in 1570 was also a drastic experience in his life. Charles V, with whom he had a sincere gratitude and almost friendship, died in 1558, and his brother Francesco in 1559. His drastic change in style compared to his earlier masterpieces of the High Renaissance may also be rooted in these personal strokes of fate, which can be inferred from some letters to Philip II, among others. The works he created during this period thus seem to be influenced by these experiences of aging.
Titian had originally chosen the Chapel of the Cross in the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari as the place of burial. In return, he offered the Franciscans, who owned the chapel, a painting of the Pietà. On it he himself and Orazio are depicted standing before the Savior. The work was almost completed, but disputes arose over the painting. Finally, Titian set his birthplace Pieve di Cadore as the place of burial. Titian died of the plague in Venice at an advanced age on August 27, 1576, being the only victim of the epidemic buried in church. He was eventually buried in the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari after all, and the painting of the Pietà was completed by Palma il Giovane. Titian”s lavish villa was looted by thieves during the plague. Shortly after Titian”s death, his son and assistant Orazio also died of the same disease. Finally, as King of Lombardo-Venetia, Ferdinand of Austria commissioned a large monument for Titian”s tomb, which previously did not even bear a memorial inscription. The commission was carried out by two students of Antonio Canova between 1838 and 1852.
Titian was, along with Raphael, one of the first artists to increase the value of their paintings by adding a signature. Throughout his work Titian signed with TICIANUS F. He often worked this, especially at the beginning of his work, into the corresponding robes of the depicted persons. Often, the form of the signature used can be used to infer Titian”s relationship to the person depicted. How these signatures are to be interpreted in detail, however, remains unclear.
In terms of his conception of art, Titian was less classical
Unlike Michelangelo, this physis-strong representation was less a means of bringing forth artistic expression than an end in itself. Power appears elemental in his paintings, as human actions merge with the environment (such as the raging of a storm or the crashing down of a boulder). Furthermore, Titian is arguably the greatest colorist of the Italian Renaissance, so the term Titian red goes back to him. Often he is also limited to his novel coloring and the effect of his paintings is explained with it. However, through the coloration of his paintings, he also showed a certain yearning urge that gives his paintings their great sensitivity. His longing and fear of God are not abstract, but neither is it explicitly designed as in Raphael or Michelangelo. In his depictions of the saints, Titian is neither the saint nor the sublime. His longing is realized in the nature he depicts. Although he is undoubtedly one of the main masters of the High Renaissance, he retains in his style something typically “Venetian” that distinguishes him from the Roman masters of draftsmanship, such as Raphael and Michelangelo.
The long period covered by Titian”s oeuvre is unusual. It extends over more than seven decades and is almost congruent with the heyday of Venetian painting. This long process of development is also evident in the sublimity inherent in Titian”s works. He thus spans the entire history of the eventful 16th century and thus of the High Renaissance and parts of Mannerism. A special feature, which could also be based on Titian”s long creative period, are the clearly pronounced and distinguishable creative periods in his work. At the beginning of his work shows his protracted search for new, modern conventions that could replace those of the 15th century. This was followed by his main creative period, which can also be subdivided more precisely. His late works then already point to the Baroque style of Rubens, Rembrandt and Watteau and stand out stylistically clearly from his other works.
As the first Italian artist with a truly international clientele, Titian owed much of this to his portraits. Portrait painting made it possible to establish contacts with new clients and maintain old relationships. Since Titian was reluctant to travel, the clients themselves had to go to the master in Venice to be portrayed by him. The privilege of Titian visiting the sitter was reserved only for Emperor Charles V or Pope Paul III. His artistic goals were exactly in line with the trend of the time, which used portraits more and more to form a self-conscious public image. The main characteristics of these portraits were a “sufficiently flattering likeness, a representation of public and private position, and a restrained characterization that would make the sitter appear full of life.” Titian distinguishes himself here by describing the personality and mood of the sitter very precisely and linking this psychological profile with allusions to the sitter”s social rank. This allows him to “flatter under the guise of truth.” It is precisely for this reason that his portraits were so often praised as lifelike and were virtually groundbreaking for the time. Carlo Ridolfi testifies that he was aware of this particular style and therefore referred anyone who wanted a simple, honest portrait of himself to the painter Giovanni Battista Moroni.
The beginnings (until 1510)
Titian”s early phase is characterized by a strong resemblance to the work of Giorgione. The main difference between the two emerging artists of the Serenissima is in the depiction of the person. Whereas Giorgione”s works are rapt, matter-of-fact, and through-minded, Titian”s work, even during this period, is characterized by a comparatively strong physical presence and interaction of the persons depicted. Yet the attribution of many works of this “early period” remains controversial, which is not surprising, since both artists worked together in the same workshop. To this day, it is not clear whether Titian was not even Giorgione”s apprentice at times.
The long learning process that is evident in Titian”s paintings is also striking. While Giorgione”s pictures show nothing of youthful awkwardness or inexperience, but captivate above all by their freshness, Titian”s early works are still relatively uncertain and stylistically immature. They hint at his talent, but not his skill. Thus, his first works are above all a very long and hard learning process, at the end of which he was to become the leading painter north of Rome. Titian”s life can therefore be clearly divided into different phases, with the early phase standing out as very long and concise.
The main characteristics of Titian”s early work already become clear in his first work of art historical importance, the exterior frescoes at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. The comparison of Titian”s Judith (preserved fragment of the exterior frescoes at the Fondaco: Galleria Franchetti in the Ca” d”Oro) with Giorgione”s Nude, also preserved as a fragment, reveals the main differences between the two artists. While Titian paints with a powerful, dynamic style, Giorgione”s figures are calmer, more lyrical, and comparatively stylized. But even here, Giorgione”s frescoes are much more artistically mature. Stylistically, the frescoes were under the influence of the so-called painting of the “West”. Especially the influence of Albrecht Dürer, who stayed in the lagoon city between 1505 and 1506, is tangible.
Giorgione”s influence on Titian is also visible in small-scale works and mythological depictions. The most important work of his early phase is the Rural Concert in the Musée du Louvre in Paris. Today it is attributed to Titian rather than Giorgione because of the detailed body language. Not only the final attribution, but also the meaning of the painting is disputed. The lute player seems to want to teach the shepherd how to play and is about to strike a string. The shepherd immediately turns to the lute player, disregarding the nymph with her flute. The lute is possibly symbolic of courtly society, while the flute, which is easy to play, represents the wilderness. To the side, a nymph pours water from a pitcher back into the well, which could indicate her possible fear of the introduction of courtly values. Accordingly, the depiction could be interpreted as showing the conflict between the awkward wilderness and the civilization destroying it.
The only accurately documented works from the early period are The Miracle of the Jealous Husband, The Miracle of the Talking Newborn, and The Miracle of the Healed Youth. These are frescoes in the Scuola del Santo in Padua, painted by Titian in 1511. This work is also a learning step by Titian, in which he confronts new problems, but the solutions he finds fall considerably short of other contemporary works, such as Raphael”s Stanzas and the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. The theme, which is mainly about forgiveness and reconciliation, was probably also inspired by the rapid closed return of Terra Ferma to the Republic of Venice during the wars against the League of Cambrai.
The earliest known portrait by Titian is Portrait of a Man (1508, National Gallery, London). This is probably a self-portrait by Titian; for a long time, however, it was thought to be a representation by Ariosto. It served Rembrandt, among others, as a model for his famous self-portraits. In this painting, the affinity to Giorgione is still tangible, but Titian aims to further enhance Giorgione”s realism, as can be seen, for example, by the puffed sleeve. The portrait is formally characterized by Titian”s strong naturalism. The self-confident appearance of the man and the realistic depiction of clothing were to remain constants in Titian”s work.
Youth work and first major successes
After Giorgione”s death in 1510 and Sebastiano del Piombo”s departure for Rome, Titian was virtually unrivaled in Venice apart from the aging Bellini. The self-confidence he gained through these circumstances is also evident in his works. Still in the learning phase, he now turned to other, new tasks, and thus a significant series of Madonna and women paintings emerged. His new self-confidence is particularly evident in his Madonna and Child with St. Anthony of Padua and St. Roch, which is in the church of Santa Maria della Salute and thematically relates to the work he did in 1509.
The oldest and best known of the series of paintings of women and Madonnas is the so-called Gypsy Madonna (Madonna zingarella) because of her gypsy-like appearance (dark complexion and brown eyes). In this Madonna, the contrast between Titian and his teacher Bellini, as it were the difference between the 16th and 15th centuries, is very clear. Bellini”s cool, detached Madonnas are now replaced by a warm, physically present Madonna. Despite this striking difference, the basic type goes back to Bellini. X-ray images show that the Christ Child originally turned toward the viewer, which further emphasizes this. Titian thus continued Giorgione”s practice of making drastic changes after the work had begun. Other important Madonna paintings are the Holy Family with an Adoring Shepherd, in which Titian”s inexperience is still evident, and the Madonna with Child and St. Dorothea and St. George, in which a domestic aspect is added to the motif of the Sacra Conversazione.
Venice in Titian”s time had the character of a capital of pleasure. It was a rich, splendid city – often compared to the Paris of the Belle Époque – and one of the largest hubs in the world. A wide variety of courtesans abounded, and accordingly there was a great demand for portraits of women. Titian”s series of portraits of women is one of the great feats of his career. The lifelike, powerful and characterful, detailed way of depiction makes it likely that these were idealized portraits of living models.
The most important painting in this series is Flora in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. There are different interpretations of the painting: The female depicted is seen as an allegory of marriage, a celebrated courtesan of antiquity (Flora), or a goddess of spring. The composition takes a stand on the assertion that painting surpasses sculpture because it has the colorfulness to offer in addition to an all-round, plastic, physical representation. In its sculptural beauty, Flora resembles a marble bust imbued with color. The painting is thus representative of the way in which Titian absorbed antiquity.
In a similar context is the 1514 created heavenly and earthly love. The Neoplatonic title is probably not accurate, in the art historical discussion it often comes to the interpretation as an allegory of conjugal life. The clothed woman, unlike the women”s paintings, is not a portrait, but a studio model. She exhibits traditional attributes of a bride. The companion embodies conjugal love, she is supposed to lead the shy, virginal bride into marriage. The landscape surrounding the figures is now perfected. The bride sitting in the warm sunlight is shielded by the trees, while the right side, symbolizing the greater freedom of the married woman, is more open and the light is more glistening.
The “classic” phase
These two initial phases of his work are now followed by a period that is often classified by art critics as the “classical period” of his work. It is characterized above all by great masterpieces of Western culture, which are created in series during this phase. This decade saw the emergence of an ambitious, self-confident Titian, whose inexhaustible drive for improvement established his world-historical fame. In this creative period Titian finally overcame the Quattrocento, created the new, large form of the altarpiece and gave mythological representations a new form. Titian became the leading painter in Italy during this period.
He made his artistic pre-eminence, acquired in Venice, clear with the first of a series of large altarpieces, proving his inspiration as a universal painter. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Assunta) is the most important work of the Venetian Renaissance. The powerful apostle figures echo Michelangelo and there are clear references to Raphael”s use of color. Clearly visible is Titian”s effort to outdo both and break definitively with Venetian tradition. Titian, although he had never been to Rome, must have been clearly aware of developments in Rome through traveling artists and laymen, drawings, prints and statuettes. This is particularly evident in the Madonna and Child, St. Francis and St. Blasius, and the donor Alvise Gozzi in Ancona. The compositional scheme of this painting is clearly inspired by Raphael”s Madonna of Foligno, even though the coloring and the lively sweep of the painting are typical of Titian.
Man with the Glove is the title of a painting created in the period 1520 to 1523. The painting still belongs to Titian”s early work, but marks the transition to his mature style. Today it is in the Louvre in Paris.
Another major work of religious painting is the Madonna of the Pesaro family, also in the Frari church. The painting, despite its long history of creation from 1519 to 1526, is tighter, cooler and more mature compared to the Assunta. It is filled with aristocratic grandeur, the profiles of the assembled Pesaro family keeping the viewer at a distance. The mighty columns, powerfully reaching for the sky, contribute to the sublime character of the painting. This was a late incursion by Titian; originally a barrel vault had been planned. In 1530 Titian completed The Death of Peter Martyr, which, in the view of many contemporaries, was the best painting he ever did. The painting tragically burned in 1867 when it was to be restored, so it is known to us only from sketches and copies. For the first time, the landscape plays a role in the monumental design of the altarpiece, just as never before had such violence been depicted. Overall, it can be summarized that the altar opened an important door in the direction of the Baroque.
Titian”s first major commission outside Venice was a mythological cycle for Alfonso d”Este. He was not Alfonso”s first choice; only after neither Fra Bartolommeo nor Raphael fulfilled the orders did the duke turn to Titian. In the Venice of the time, there was hardly any demand for mythological cycles, so Titian ventured into a metier that was completely unknown to him. Three important paintings were created: the Venus Festival, the Bacchanal and Bacchus and Ariadne. In the Feast of Venus, whose material comes from the “Paintings” of Philostrato, Titian”s delight in childlike play and its agitation is evident. The children virtually flow towards the viewer, like a river carrying water. The vividly depicted putti carry the action, Venus and her companions, are similar to the background, depicted much more tonally. Sources for the second image of the series Bacchus and Ariadne are Catullus and Ovid. It shows Bacchus jumping from the chariot, drunk with love, and Ariadne pausing, both frightened and fascinated. It combines the strongest movement with exemplary calm. To achieve the color brilliance that characterizes the painting, Titian had to resort to the strongest pigments available at the time. In terms of composition, the painting is very close to Raphael and is thus a prime example of Titian”s incorporation of borrowed ideas into his paintings. Bacchanal is the last painting in the series made for the Prince of Ferrara. It shows Bacchus” arrival on the island of Andros. He is received there by his entourage and, among other things, transforms the water of a spring into wine. Titian”s depiction of the scene in no way shows moral disapproval of these events, which speaks to the hedonism of the creator.
In Titian”s “classical phase” he created some very famous portraits. Especially in the first half of the third decade, he also created masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance in this area. A major work is the portrait of Vincenzo Mosti in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. Through the chosen color chords, the portrayed person gains preciousness, the great painterly freedom in face and clothing enlivens the picture. Typical for Titian”s portraits, there is also a “classic” eye-catcher in this one: the white collar. The Man with Glove from the Louvre in Paris is particularly well known. It shows a youth about to pass into manhood, with Titian”s characteristic proud facial expression replaced by a sweeping melancholy pensiveness.
Discussion with the Mannerism
After Titian”s “classical” phase full of peak performance and energy, a period of setback followed. In the years 1530-1540 hardly any significant works were created, it seems as if Titian was in a serious creative crisis during this time. This is often treated under the catchword: “Mannerist crisis”. A change in style is clearly evident in Titian”s works, the period of youthful works is over, more and more Titian has to struggle for his creativity. Titian”s artistic nature was conceivably unsuitable for mannerist currents, so that little or nothing of mannerism can be seen in Titian”s works.
Titian”s youthful vigor and uniformity of his works diminished; each is no longer the logical, more developed continuation of the previous one. He no longer painted for the general public, but for his patrons, collectors and patrons. The phase began in which the favor of the emperor was more important to him than the recognition of Venice. One can speak of a transitional phase during this time, which finally led Titian to his characteristic style. But even in this phase, Titian still achieved many masterpieces, albeit less frequently than in the years before.
Probably the most important representative work of this period is the Temple Walk of Mary for the Scuola Grande di Santa Maria della Carità. The Scuola is now part of the Galleria dell”Accademia, where the painting is still placed in its original location. In the painting, Titian”s attachment to the Serenissima, probably the most liberal state and community in Italy at the time, is evident. As a court painter in Madrid or Rome, he would have enjoyed much less artistic and intellectual freedom than in Venice. Yet a certain distance from the city is also evident, as he chooses the mountain peaks of Cadore as his background and vanishing point. The work is characterized by vertical and horizontal. The outlines are closed, the gestures moderate, the movement restricted. The arrangement of the figures may seem almost old-fashioned and represents a recourse to the 15th century ceremonial scenes of Vittore Carpaccio and Gentile Bellini. However, Titian gives each person depicted a weight of his own, a personality of his own – Hetzer speaks of individual basic power – and thus clearly develops the mode of representation further. Likewise, his depiction of architecture anticipates Veronese”s architectural grandeur. Overall, the painting is a good example of Titian”s change in style; the people depicted are now self-contained and collected, whereas previous works were characterized by a form of supreme, directional movement. The most famous work of this creative phase is the Venus of Urbino from the Uffizi in Florence. It is clear that Titian followed Giorgione”s Venus at Rest very closely. While the Resting Venus is depicted lyrically, sweetly asleep and surrounded by a beautiful landscape, the Venus of Urbino is a more seductive version of this work. It lacks anything mythological; the representation is material and unsentimental, and the sitter is more like a courtesan than a goddess. The owner Giubaldo della Rovere, heir to the Duchy of Urbino, speaks only of a “naked lady” in connection with the work. For this reason, and because all the mythological characteristics of a Venus are missing, it is assumed today that it is an allegory of conjugal love and not a representation of Venus.
Titian”s preoccupation with Mannerism is most evident in the three ceiling paintings for the Santo Spirito in Isola. The paintings are now in the sacristy of Santa Maria della Salute. Clearly recognizable in the three works Sacrifice of Abraham, Cain slays Abel and David and Goliath is the influence of Giulio Romano, with whose works Titian was always confronted in Mantua. The paintings are composed on the diagonal and coordinated to create a typical zig-zag movement, a Venetian stylistic device typical up to Tiepolo. A gloomy, heavy violence is spread over the works, which is brought to the point in a simple, elementary form. The depiction of figures is also elementary and almost primeval: Cain swings a tree trunk as a club with wild strength, Abel is pushed into the abyss like a stone, Abraham pushes down his son like a sacrificial animal, and the giant Goliath falls to the ground with incredible force. In his mannerist phase, Titian brings everything depicted to a head in a brutal manner, thus imbuing the scenes with drama. In the Coronation of Thorns from the Louvre in Paris, Titian treats the mistreatment and mockery of the superior and defenseless through violence and crudeness. In the extremely brutally depicted scene, the torturers drill the crown of thorns into the scalp with sticks. However, the coloring used softens the cruelty of the scene. The sticks cut through the painting like knife wounds, forming the triangle of the Trinity to the right of Jesus” head. Jesus is depicted with an extremely physical presence; the viewer seems to almost feel the pulsating blood of the victim. The influence of Roman art is also clearly noticeable, for example, there are clear similarities between the Christ figure and the Laocoon statue. The Ecce Homo represents a highly political statement by Titian, not least because of the diverse compendium of celebrities. The subject, rather unusual for Italian painting, is explained by the Flemish patron Giovanni d”Anna, a merchant from the political circle of Charles V. Titian”s close friend, the art critic Pietro Aretino, is depicted as Pilate. Also still placed in the work are the Venetian Doge Pietro Lando, the Ottoman Sultan Suleyman II, Alfonso d”Avalos, and even Titian”s daughter. Although Christ is clearly placed to the side, he is the center of the action because of the outstanding composition of the picture. Pilate”s indecision is shown due to his ambivalent posture, with which Titian clearly shows his historical opinion.
Titian in the service of the Habsburgs
The unveiling of the Miracle of St. Mark in the Scuola Grande di San Marco by Jacopo Tintoretto in 1548 marked the beginning of Titian”s departure from Venetian society. This was caused by the increasing competition between Titian and Tintoretto, who clearly differed in character and in their attitude to life and work. The tense relationship with Tintoretto contrasted with a more cordial relationship with Veronese.
During this time, Titian”s contacts with Emperor Charles V (as King of Spain Carlos I) and his son Philip II intensified. Especially with Charles V a close personal relationship developed. Thus, after his abdication, he took almost exclusively works by Titian with him to the monastery of San Jerónimo de Yuste, including a portrait of his wife, Isabella of Portugal, who died in 1539, which was highly venerated by the emperor. Among these paintings, Titian”s Glory was his favorite work. Under the enthroned Trinity, Mary is seen as mediatrix between the earthly and the supernatural. To the human sphere belong Francisco de Vargas, the imperial envoy in Venice, and some prophets from the Old Testament. Elevated on the right is Charles V himself, kneeling, bareheaded and with his crown removed – often understood as a sign of his weariness with office. Charles is the center of the composition, the vanishing point is the dove of the Holy Spirit.
Titian”s close relationship with Charles V also becomes clear in the most important portrait of the emperor: Charles V at Mühlberg. The emperor is depicted in a magnificent pose, revealing tension and uncertainty. However, Charles” fragile, sickly body is also shown, so that in Titian Charles” greatness and fragility are portrayed at the same time. Titian”s full-body portrait of Philip II also reveals interesting things. Unlike his father, who had been shown in a similar portrait twenty years earlier, he is not depicted as an experienced general; the pageantry worn is more a general expression of Philip”s inherited authority. It is immediately clear to the viewer that Philip II felt no particular military inclinations. He appears more cultured and educated than his father.
Philip”s engagement to Mary Tudor as part of a political alliance and his pronounced interest in the opposite sex provided the appropriate framework for a series of mythological paintings that would prove to be Titian”s most seminal works. Titian called this series “Poetry,” implying that his paintings refer to a literary source and that he takes the liberty to freely interpret the source like a poet. The first painting in this series is Danae from the Prado in Madrid, a version of Danae from Naples that is once again much more seductive. The counterpart was Venus and Adonis, sent to Philip”s wedding in London in 1554. The literary model was Ovid; according to him, Venus was in love with Adonis and therefore tried to stop him from hunting. When he resisted, he was mortally wounded by a wild boar in revenge. In comparison to Ovid”s stories, Titian dramatizes the events. He shows the desperate Venus trying to stop her lover. Here Venus” exaggerated posture is typically mannerist and was used thoughtfully to show the painter”s artistry.
Titian”s daughter Lavinia is suspected by some researchers in the Girl with Fruit Bowl painted in 1555. The 1558 portrait of Filippo Archinto achieved notoriety for the sitter”s mysterious partial veiling.
Probably the most famous paintings in the series are the Edinburgh paintings Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto. Completed as late as 1559, these works went down in European art history for their excellent coloring with a limited color palette, varied poses, and sensuality of representation. They have been described as both Mannerist and Baroque. The first work, which has been jointly owned by the National Galleries of England and Scotland since 2009, is about Aktaion, who, as punishment for accidentally disturbing the nymphs while bathing, is transformed into a deer and torn by his own dogs. The painting shows the moment when Aktaion is still coming to terms with the shock of his accidental act and its cruel consequences. Through this Titian achieves a further dramatization of the already dramatic scene. Diana gives Aktaion a punishing look, which the latter, who has dropped his bow in surprise, has not even noticed. Even the maid, who dries Diana”s feet, has not yet noticed Aktaion, only a nymph crouches behind a column and observes Aktaion critically. Overall, the work conveys an ominous mood, comparable to the proverbial calm before the storm. This painting was acquired in 2012 by the two National Galleries with the help of donations from various foundations and private individuals.
The second painting is also derived from Ovid”s Metamorphoses. It depicts the chaste goddess Diana condemning the pregnant Callisto, seduced by Jupiter, with imperious gestures. Diana”s face is in shadow, which is an ominous sign regarding Callisto”s punishment. The latter is banished, transformed into a bear and almost killed by her own son. In principle, the painting is characterized by a warm, late afternoon glow. Both works, besides clearly depicting the events, could also contain a highly political message, not immediately obvious, about the danger of being too close to arbitrary power.
The last and best-preserved picture of the poetry series is the Rape of Europa from 1562. The Hellenistic posture of Europa is still indebted to the Renaissance, but her rounded, blissful forms already reach far into the Baroque. The raised arm casts the typical ominous shadow in her face, the open thighs immediately announce her probable fate. But despite her inherent fear, lust is also mixed into her face, one could almost see it as an invitation to the putti to shoot their arrows of love.
From about 1560 Titian made a radical change in style, probably caused by the many personal strokes of fate of that time. His paintings echo his personal fate; they become darker, more melancholy, and are painted with bold ductus. The works created at this time are characterized as his late work and were controversial. Titian”s new style, although it may have had other causes, was nevertheless within the trend of the Mannerist period. The Counter-Reformation was looking for works that appealed to the observer emotionally, that drew him into the events and made him sympathize with them. In this way, a stronger bond between the faithful and the church was to be achieved. In this respect, Titian met the taste of the Spanish court with his last works. From Palma Il Giovane, one of Titian”s students, we know more detailed information about Titian”s working method in his old age: “The painter used to sketch the composition with large amounts of courageously applied paint, and then turn the canvas to the wall, often for several months. Then he subjected them to extremely rigid scrutiny, as if they were his mortal enemies, watching for mistakes. In the final stages of completion, he painted more with his fingers than with his brush.”
In the Entombment of Christ, which was included with the Edinburgh Poetry paintings, Titian”s generous, open ductus capturing the light is evident. All the subjects except Nicodemus, whom Titian has made his own self-portrait, lean to the left. This once again highlights the sagging weight of the dead Jesus. The Counter-Reformation art now setting in is made particularly clear by the Crucifixion of Christ with Mary and St. John and St. Domenic of Ancona. The mourners in the foreground evoke compassion and emotional devotion in the viewer. Christ is depicted smaller than the other figures, creating separation and distance. This is thus the prototype of a Counter-Reformation depiction of the Crucifixion, which was intended to appeal to the faithful through a particularly realistic, emotional and lifelike, as well as completely unstylized depiction. Another key work by Titian a few years later is the Annunciation from S. Salvatore in Venice. Depicted is not the Annunciation, but the moment immediately after the Annunciation. Mary has already lifted her veil while the angel stands in awe. The entire painting appears very material, in contradiction to the otherworldliness of the subject depicted. In the upper part of the painting, all the colors merge together until it comes to the grandiose fountain of light of the Holy Spirit, which drives the heavenly hosts apart.
It was not until the last decade of his life that Titian completely overcame the classical High Renaissance. Until then, this had always been his cultural home, despite Mannerist tendencies. This change of style becomes particularly clear in the Munich Crowning with Thorns. While in the Paris Crowning with Thorns Christ is shown in a heroic struggle, which in composition can be traced back to Laocoon, the mood in the Munich Crowning with Thorns is devoted, almost like a ritual. The Schindung des Marsyas is one of the works Titian was working on in 1576, when a terrible plague was ravaging Venice. The dreary, gloomy mood that the death of his favorite son Orazio, among other things, triggered in him can also be felt here. The flaring brown-red tones and the darkness of the main colors, illuminated only sporadically, make the cruelty of the mythological scene depicted even more frightening. Marsyas is suspended by his hooves, resembling an animal carcass, while he is flayed by his tormentor Apollo and his assistant.
As he grew older, Titian rarely painted portraits; his main motifs were largely religious. He made exceptions only for high personalities or people associated with him in friendship. Thus, even in the phase of his late work, he achieved two major works of his portrait art: the self-portrait in the Prado and the portrait of Jacopo de Strada. The self-portrait shows a completely changed way of self-portrayal. In place of the self-assurance and strength seen in the Berlin Self-Portrait, there is physical decay and lowered self-confidence. A final masterpiece of Titian”s portraiture is the portrait of Jacopo Strada. The depicted allusions to his profession do not eclipse his characteristic face. Particularly unusual for the portrait type of the time is that Strada is not looking directly at the viewer, but is looking out of the painting with a questioning expression.
In order to inspire an international audience for and about his work, reproduction engravings of many of Titian”s works were created. With the help of these engravings, Titian was able to reach a much larger target audience than he could with conventional means. Although the side-inverted and monochromatic engravings did not allow any real conclusions to be drawn about the quality of his paintings, they were nevertheless irreplaceable for Titian”s reputation. Moreover, in the art theory of the time, invention, which could be reproduced, was considered the main achievement in a painting. Titian was well aware of the importance of these engravings for his professional success. Therefore, from 1566 on, he only had engravings made under his direct control. In addition, in the same year he obtained a monopoly from the Signoria for the distribution of his engravings, which prevented him from distributing or selling inferior or defective engravings of his works and thus damaging his reputation.
Between 1517 and 1520 he made some woodcuts himself. The most famous of this series is the Crossing of the Red Sea. Here he collaborated with Domenico Campagnola, who made other prints based on his paintings and drawings. Much later, Titian sent drawings from his paintings to Cornelis Cort, who engraved them. Modern research has knowledge of this because of Lampsonius, the secretary of the Bishop of Liège Gerard van Groesbeeck. In a personal letter he praised the, in his opinion, extremely high quality of the sheets engraved by Cornelius Cort and implored Titian to have more such engravings made. Cornelis Cort was followed by Martino Rota from 1558 to 1568. Mostly Titian had works reproduced that he had delivered to the Spanish court. Although these commissions for the Habsburgs increased his fame, they were inaccessible to the Italian target audience. Titian also used the engravings in part to deal with subjects for which he otherwise lacked time.
Instead of using only egg, as was customary at the time, the pigments were bound with oil and egg or only oil, a technique of color preparation that goes back to the Flemish painter Jan van Eyck. Oil painting brought the advantage of presenting unchanged color freshness over a much longer time.
According to his student Giacomo Palma, Titian”s palette included 9 colors:
However, Titian also used other colors such as gold and green and other pigments such as realgar as a bright orange, for example, in the cloak of the cymbal player in the oil painting Bacchus and Ariadne (painted 1520-23).
Workshop and pupils
In 1513 Titian opened his first studio in San Samuele. Until his death in 1576, he trained students there who helped him with many of his works or made copies of them. Especially in the years after 1550, many replicas of Titian”s earlier works came on the market, probably executed at least in part by Titian”s students.
Among Titian”s students was Jan Stephan van Calcar, who made woodcuts (based on Titian”s lost designs) of “musclemen” for the anatomist Vesal.
Only a few of Titian”s students achieved fame under their own name, most of them were probably only assistants of the great artist throughout their lives, such as Titian”s brother Francesco, his son Orazio or his nephew Marco. Only Paris Bordone, Bonifazio Veronese and Palma il Giovane were later to become independent, well-known painters. However, these three were only briefly employed in Titian”s workshop. Both Bonifazio Veronese and Palma il Giovane left his workshop in a dispute with Titian. Tintoretto is also said to have been an apprentice in Titian”s studio for a time, though it was said that Titian threw the young Tintoretto out of his workshop. The two painters came from different social classes and had contrasting ideals and world views, which was probably the reason for their differences. Even later, the two artists were bitter rivals, and throughout their lives they were to have an extremely tense relationship with each other. According to Giulio Clovio, El Greco (Dominikos Theotokopoulos), when he moved from Crete to Venice, was employed by Titian in the last years of his life.
All in all, Titian was reproached by most of his contemporaries, including Giorgio Vasari, for not having coped with promising talents in his studio. He had neither encouraged nor taught his assistants. Such statements by his contemporaries also gave rise to the image of a begrudging, even envious painter who did everything he could to weaken his competitors. Perhaps it was this practice that made Titian”s impressive work possible. His assistants, since they had no special artistic training, were very well suited as an extension of the master. Thus it was said in Venice: “If his pupils had not taken so much work from him, Titian could never have completed so many pictures.”
The comparison with the Bellini brothers” workshop is also astonishing: with Giorgione, Titian, Sebastiano del Piombo and Lorenzo Lotto, they produced four very successful artists. In contrast, Titian”s workshop did not produce any really high-ranking artist. This behavior of Titian led to the fact that after his death there was a big gap in Venetian painting. This is one of the reasons why there was a decline in the importance of Venetian painting during the 17th century. After Tintoretto”s death, Venice was not to produce a “first class” painter for more than a generation. Thus Titian”s work was left without a worthy successor.
The share of his workshop in his works varies and is still unclear today. Especially from the last decades of his life, however, many paintings have survived that can be clearly attributed to his workshop. In the last years of his life, he also began to complete unfinished paintings by his students himself. This led to major dating and attribution problems for all of his late work. After his sudden death, his workshop contained a number of paintings, some of which are still very well known today. However, only a part of these were already completed, the rest were finished and sold by Titian”s students. Therefore, especially with these last works, there is the problem that it is impossible to determine the workshop share.
Attention and awareness
Titian achieved national fame already in the early period of his work. Later he advanced to become the most successful living painter, with commissions from all over Europe and from all important ruling houses. He had particularly close ties with the royal court in Madrid, so that the death of Charles V was a hard blow for him. On the other hand, Charles V also seemed to be very attached to Titian, because, as already mentioned, the emperor appointed him court painter and ennobled him himself and also his sons. He would have liked to oblige Titian to permanent allegiance. Obviously, his works also had a personal value for him, so after his abdication in Brussels in 1556, he took mostly paintings by Titian with him. Philip II was also an important patron and great lover of Titian. Other important patrons were the Republic of Venice and especially the Gonzaga princely family. Even popes from Rome, such as Pope Paul III, tried to win Titian over as a court painter. As a result, his works were highly sought after first throughout Italy and then in the rest of Western Europe.
Even during his lifetime Titian was compared with the main masters of the High Renaissance Raphael and Michelangelo. Titian”s reputation as one of the most important artists in the history of European art would not be diminished until today. Titian”s style, despite the strong physical presence of the depicting figures, nevertheless rather Venetian, lyrically influenced, represented an important point of contention about his work. Contemporary Renaissance art theory, in particular, therefore dealt with him at length: for example, in the second edition of his biographies in 1568, Vasari criticized all Venetian painters for their neglect of sketches and other preliminary drawing work; he implied here the accusation of intellectual inconsistency. In this very edition, however, Titian is mentioned in detail for the first time and thus placed on a level with other great Italian masters. Even later, Vasari was to maintain his critical attitude toward Titian. In 1548, Pino first recommended the combination of Titian”s coloration and Michelangelo”s draftsmanship for the “ideal” artist, a phrase that was to remain so for a long time and was later used to describe Jacopo Tintoretto, among others. Dolce, in turn, defined painting as the combination of draftsmanship, inventiveness, and coloration. He considered Titian equal in the first two categories, and even superior in the latter. From this he deduced that Titian had more in common with Raphael than with Michelangelo. In the context of this dispute, the rift between the supporters of Venetian and Upper Italian painting and the supporters of “Roman” painting is clearly evident. The most important advocates of Titian were Ludovico Dolce and his close friend Pietro Aretino. Titian”s most serious adversary was probably Michelangelo, who, while contemplating Danae, is said to have said, “What a pity that in Venice one does not learn to draw properly from the beginning, and that those painters are not trained in a better way.”
On the whole, typical characteristics of Titian”s painting, such as the great agitation or the psychic sensitivity, were already mostly reduced to the concept of coloration by his contemporaries. Although coloring has a very important position in his overall work, it is also characterized by the physical power of the depicted persons and usually by a sophisticated composition. Posthumously, however, his work has been viewed much more positively, whether by Carlo Ridolfi, who praises Assunta almost effusively to the skies, Joshua Reynolds, or Eugène Delacroix, who said, “If you lived a hundred and twenty years, you would eventually prefer Titian to everything else.” This statement also alludes to the long process of maturation that lies behind each of Titian”s paintings.
In the 19th century, parallel to the general development of art historical research, art historians began to devote more attention to Titian. The famous two-volume biography on Titian by Crowe and Cavalcaselle falls into this period. The most important German-speaking art historian of the time, Jacob Burckhardt, also dealt with Titian in detail and devoted a long chapter to him in his main work Cicerone. As a summarizing introduction to it he writes:
Even the 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, published in 1911 and now considered the culmination of 19th century knowledge and arguably the best encyclopedia ever published, devotes a long article to Titian and praises him in the highest terms:
In the middle of the 20th century, the influential German art historian Theodor Hetzer dealt with Titian in detail. Titian is often mentioned as his or one of his favorite painters. Between the lines he clearly criticizes the allegedly too little recognition that would be given to Titian. At the beginning of the 20th century Titian, although still highly respected, moved somewhat into the background due to the general “hype” around Tintoretto. But critical tones were also heard from Theodor Hetzer. Titian”s “mannerist phase” in particular did not meet with his undivided enthusiasm. For example, he clearly criticized the Ecce Homo from Vienna, which is very well-known today:
Opinions on Titian”s late work were contradictory even during his lifetime. Some contemporaries considered his almost impressionistic style of art to be a consequence of senescence, diminishing eyesight, and his overall weakening powers. Others, however, regarded the new form of elemental abridgement and broken colors and brushstrokes as the completion of Titian”s creative work; for example, the Lombard artist and art critic Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo called this last phase of his life “chromatic alchemy.” In his opinion, Titian worked during this period like an alchemist transforming base metals into gold. Roberto Longhi saw his late work as “magical impressionism”.
Titian on the art market
In recent years, two works by Titian that were previously privately owned have been put up for sale. One of the two, Diana and Actaeon, was acquired on February 2, 2009, by London”s National Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery together for the equivalent of $71 million (£50 million). The two museums had a right of first refusal until December 31, 2008, before the work would have been sold at public auction. However, this deadline was extended so that the museums were able to make use of it after all. For the other painting, Diana and Callisto, the museums have the same arrangements until 2012, before it is also offered for sale to private collectors. According to estimates by leading art experts, both paintings, if offered, would have had a market value of 300 million pounds.
The purchase quickly became the subject of political controversy, as some leading politicians felt that the money could have been better used in times of recession. However, the purchase was only partially financed by government funds. The Scottish government provided £12.5 million, with £10 million coming from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The rest of the money came from other foundations, private donors and the National Galleries in London and Edinburgh.
In spring 2011, Sotheby”s in New York auctioned the painting The Madonna and Child with St. Luke and Catherine of Alexandria in New York from the Heinz Kisters Collection. The expected estimate of $20 million was not quite reached, with the painting going to an anonymous buyer for $16.9 million (£10.7 million). Nevertheless, the price is one of the highest paid so far.
In 2004, the Getty Museum acquired the painting Portrait of Alfonso d”Avalos with a Page, which was then on loan from the insurance company Axa and exhibited at the Louvre, for a price – not officially confirmed – of $70 million.
The coloristic realism of the Venetians, influenced by the Flemish schools, reached its peak through Titian. As the undisputed main master of the Venetian Renaissance, he occupies a significant position in art history. Few painters had a greater influence on subsequent generations of artists. With the Assumption from the Frari Church, Titian created the first “modern” high altar. This type was to shape religious painting in Europe for two centuries. But Titian”s influence on subsequent generations of artists was also enormous in the area of mythological subjects. He brought this subject to perfection for the first time and created the most important mythological representations of the Renaissance. Additionally, it is important to note Titian”s important role in the history of European portrait painting. Titian can be seamlessly classified together with Raphael and Michelangelo as the most important artist of the Italian Renaissance. Accordingly, his reception was also great. He dominated at least two generations of Venetian painting from Giorgione and Sebastiano del Piombo to Tintoretto and Veronese. Lambert Sustris was so strongly influenced by Titian as a collaborator that his portrait of Emperor Charles V from the Munich Pinakothek was long thought to be a major work by Titian. Tintoretto, in turn, proudly claimed to embody the combination of Michelangelo”s draftsmanship with Titian”s colorism. He tried to convince people of his abilities especially with the painting Miracle of St. Mark; this painting was to be his breakthrough in Venice. Without Titian”s influence on Venetian painting, such a painting would never have been possible.
Unlike Michelangelo, Titian did not develop his own school. His use of color remained and remains admired, but each artist who studied Titian”s work took it differently, so that a uniform form of imitation could never prevail. This path stretches from Peter Paul Rubens” “deep love, so beautifully blossoming, to van Dyck”s skillful but superficial exploitation,” as Theodor Hetzer notes. Thus Titian”s posthumous influence on the European Baroque was great. Very soon Titian was part of the “training stock” for ambitious painters of all kinds. Rubens in particular often used Titian”s works as inspiration or tried to surpass them in imitation. In principle, one can speak of a very close artistic relationship between Rubens and Titian. Not only in his years of training and apprenticeship, when he was, among other things, court painter in Mantua, he drew heavily on him, but he even came back to him again as a mature artist. In the meantime, it is assumed that his rejuvenated late style is not due to his very young second wife Fourment, but to his renewed preoccupation with Titian. Rubens” dialogue with Titian began with a portrait of Isabella d”Este in Mantua and culminated with his copy of the Feast of Venus and the Bacchanal of the Andrians. No other painter probably influenced Rubens as Titian did. Rubens” pupil Anthony van Dyck also used Titian as a model with great success. He first came into contact with his art in England, where he studied the Italian masterpieces at court very closely. In this context, one can even speak of a dilution of Rubens” influence in favor of Veronese and especially Titian. Probably no other artist knew how to imitate Titian so skillfully and successfully.
But Titian had a great influence not only on the Flemish Baroque, but also on the golden age of Dutch art. Probably the most important artist of this era, Rembrandt, was strongly influenced by Titian – especially in portrait painting. Especially his early work Portrait of a Young Man was an important inspiration for Rembrandt”s famous self-portraits. Titian”s influence becomes even more immediate in Saskia as Flora. Titian”s Flora here first inspired Rembrandt to paint such a painting, showing his wife Saskia as Flora. Overall, the reception of Titian is omnipresent in Rembrandt”s works. Even the French Baroque or Classicism was influenced by Titian in no small way. Some examples are Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain and Antoine Watteau. The first two in particular were strongly influenced by him. Both spent most of their lives in Italy and therefore inevitably came into contact with Titian. Poussin”s first works, such as Tranquility on the Flight into Egypt from 1627, clearly testify to Poussin”s admiration for the lively, vibrant life of Titian”s Feast of Venus. The landscape painting of the two French Baroque painters was also clearly influenced by Titian.
Not only the great masters up to the 18th century such as Rubens, Poussin and Watteau were among his admirers, but also main masters of the 19th century such as Eugène Delacroix, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and especially the Impressionists such as Édouard Manet received important inspiration from Titian. Ingres” main work, the Turkish Bath, is a logical development of the Edinburgh Poetry series. But far more significant is the Titian conception of the Impressionists, and here especially that of Manet. The seductive Venus of Urbino provoked Manet and led him to a polemical imitation in the form of Olympia. Here he deliberately wanted to polarize; in criticism of the voyeurism typical of the 19th century, he depicts the naked woman in a provocative pose and with the typical positional characteristics of a harlot. Thus, the Olympia is Manet”s very personal reaction to the Venus of Urbino.
Hugo von Hofmannsthal, at the age of 18, wrote a short drama about the painter”s demise – The Death of Titian (1892). This is a projection of the situation at Titian”s death onto themes and problems of the fin de siècle.
Titian and his painting Heavenly and Earthly Love were depicted on the Italian 20,000 lira banknote issued by the Banca d”Italia between 1975 and 1985.