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Titian(tĭsh`ən), c.1490–1576, Venetian painter, whose name was Tiziano Vecellio, b. Pieve di Cadore in the Dolomites. Of the very first rank among the artists of the Renaissance, Titian was extraordinarily versatile, painting portraits, landscapes, and sacred and historical subjects with equal skill and a superb pictorial technique. He had an immense influence on succeeding generations of painters, especially in his use of color. A charming and pioneering businessman as well as an artist, Titian introduced his works to an international audience of patrons and viewers and was an important participant in the burgeoning global cultural trade of the 16th cent.
Life and Works
Titian studied painting in the shop of Gentile and Giovanni BelliniBellini
, illustrious family of Venetian painters of the Renaissance. Jacopo Bellini , c.1400–1470, was a pupil of Gentile da Fabriano. He worked in Padua, Verona, Ferrara, and Venice.
..... Click the link for more information. . He also worked with GiorgioneGiorgione
, c.1478–1510, Venetian painter, b. Castelfranco Veneto; fellow student of Titian under Giovanni Bellini in Venice. Giorgione was known also as Zorgo or Zorgi da Castelfranco and as Giorgio Barbarelli.
..... Click the link for more information. in 1508 on frescoes (now nearly obliterated) for the facade of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice. In 1511 he executed frescoes of the miracles of St. Anthony for the Scuola del Santo, Padua. After the deaths of Giorgione and of Giovanni Bellini, Titian was established as the finest painter in Venice. In 1518 he completed the celebrated altarpiece of the Assumption of the Virgin (Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice). During the rest of his career rulers throughout Europe showered him with commissions and honors. His work was eagerly sought by the ducal families of Ferrara, Mantua, and Urbino. Emperor Charles V made him a Count Palatine. Philip II of Spain was also an enthusiastic patron.
In 1545 Titian went to Rome, where he was quartered in the Belvedere of the Vatican. He painted the striking, though unfinished, portrait of Pope Paul III with his grandsons Ottavio (the second Duke of Parma) and Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (Pinacoteca, Naples). For Cardinal Farnese he painted a Danaë (Naples), of which he was later to make several versions. In Rome Titian came into contact with Michelangelo and shared his interest in ancient monuments. Returning to Venice, he was invited in 1548 to Augsburg by Charles V. There he executed many portraits of dignitaries and probably, during the course of his conversations with the emperor, conceived the idea of the magnificent La Gloria (1554; Prado), in which Charles and his deceased wife are presented to the Holy Trinity.
In 1553 Titian began work on a cycle of mythological pictures for Philip II which included Diana and Callisto and Diana Surprised by Acteon (both 1559; National Gall., Edinburgh); the Rape of Europa (1559; Gardner Mus., Boston); and Perseus and Andromeda (c.1555; Wallace Coll., London). Also for Philip II he executed a large number of religious works intended for the Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial. Among these were Adam and Eve (c.1570; Prado) and the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence (1564–67; Escorial). After 1552, Titian remained in Venice, living in princely splendor and surrounded by friends who included the writer Pietro AretinoAretino, Pietro
, 1492–1556, Italian satirist. He led a life of adventure and wrote abusive works for hire. His derisive wit was so feared that the gifts of those who sought either to buy him or buy him off made him very wealthy.
..... Click the link for more information. and the architect Jacopo SansovinoSansovino, Jacopo
, 1486–1570, Italian sculptor and architect of the Renaissance. His surname was taken in place of his own, Tatti, as homage to the Florentine sculptor Andrea Sansovino, under whom he was apprenticed.
..... Click the link for more information. .
Titian's work may be divided into three phases. The first is marked by the strong influence of Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione, exemplified in the so-called Sacred and Profane Love (c.1513; Borghese Gall., Rome) and in the Madonna of the Cherries (c.1515; Vienna). The attribution of certain works such as the Fête Champêtre (Louvre) is still a matter of controversy; some historians attribute the work to Giorgione.
During his second phase (c.1518–1550) there is a full development of the dramatic monumentality characteristic of High Renaissance painting. Typical of this phase are the Pesaro Altarpiece (1519–26; Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice), the Presentation of the Virgin (1534–38; Academy, Venice), and the Christ Crowned with Thorns (c.1542; Louvre). Titian also achieved a greater sumptuousness of color and an evocation of sensuous joy in such pictures as the Worship of Venus (1519; Prado), Bacchus and Ariadne (1523; National Gall., London), and the Venus of Urbino (1537; Uffizi). Many of Titian's most famous portraits were painted during this period, including La Bella (1537), Ippolito Rinaldo (c.1545; both: Pitti Palace), and the equestrian portrait of Charles V at the Battle of Mühlberg (1548; Prado).
In Titian's last phase there is an intensification of emotional expression and an emphasis on harsh subject matter, as in one of his final works, the brutal Flaying of Marsyas (1576). A deeply personal and mystical spirit becomes visible in a new looseness of brushstroke and subtlety of color. A climactic example is his last painting, the Pietà (Academy, Venice), intended for the artist's own tomb and finished by Palma Giovane.
Achievements and Influences
Throughout his long and prolific career, Titian explored many pictorial problems. The artist was particularly famous for his innovations in the handling of color, a major preoccupation of the Venetian School. His composition and brushwork, as well, were tremendously influential on later artists. Painters from VelázquezVelázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y
, 1599–1660, b. Seville. He was the most celebrated painter of the Spanish school. Early Life and Work
..... Click the link for more information. to BalthusBalthus
, 1908–2001, Polish-French painter, b. Paris as Count Balthasar Klossowski de Rola. Balthus is widely regarded as one of the most important figurative painters of the modern era. He began painting as a young man and had his first one-man show in 1934.
..... Click the link for more information. have studied and valued his work; he has served as an excellent role model for many painters. His influence was felt more strongly in the 20th cent. than that of any other Renaissance artist.
Although most of Titian's paintings are in Europe, examples may be seen in American collections, including the Gardner Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Metropolitan Museum and the Frick Collection, New York City; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Detroit and Kansas City museums.
See biography by S. Hale (2012); studies by H. E. Wethey (2 vol., 1970–72), C. Hope (1980), F. Lanzi (1986), R. Goffen (1998), and M. Hudson (2009).
(Tiziano Vecellio). Born 1476/77 or, as most critics now believe, sometime in the 1480’s in Pieve di Cadore, near Venice; died Aug. 27, 1576, in Venice. Italian painter; the most prominent representative of the Venetian school during the High and Late Renaissance.
Titian went to Venice as a young man to study in the workshop of Giovanni Bellini. There he developed a close association with Giorgione, with whom he collaborated, circa 1508, on the frescoes of the German Exchange in Venice (fragments of their work have been preserved). Although Titian worked primarily in Venice, he also accepted commissions in other cities—Padua (1506), Ferrara (1516 and 1523), Mantua (1536–37), Urbino (1542–44), Rome (1545–46), and Augsburg (1548 and 1550–51). A member of Venice’s cultural elite, which included such luminaries as the writer P. Aretino and the architect and sculptor J. Sansovino, Titian embodied in his art the humanistic ideals of the Renaissance. His works reveal a courageous affirmation of life, together with a broad grasp of its phenomena and a profound understanding of the age’s dramatic conflicts.
Titian’s early works—created between 1510 and 1515—include Christ and the Adulteress (Art Galleries, Glasgow), Christ and Magdalene (National Gallery, London), and Gypsy Madonna (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), and they reveal a kinship with the paintings of Giorgione, several of which Titian completed after Giorgione’s death. Similarities are evident, for example, in the preoccupation with landscape, in the poetic, almost lyrical, quality of conception, serving to convey a tranquil mood, and in the refined sense of color that characterizes the works of both artists.
By 1515, however, Titian, after carefully studying the works of such masters as Raphael and Michelangelo, had begun developing his own style. The figures he painted at this time, although set in a serene pose, are nevertheless imbued with an exuberance and a vivacity that are vividly communicated to the viewer; at times they appear to have an inner illumination. These qualities are enhanced by the striking harmony of brilliant, rich colors that the artist achieved in such paintings as Sacred and Profane Love (c. 1515–16, Borghese Gallery, Rome), Flora (c. 1515, Uffizi Gallery, Florence), and Christ and the Tribute Money (1518, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden). In his portraits of this period, Titian adopted an austere composition, allowing no distraction from his subjects, whom he depicted with remarkable psychological acuity. Outstanding examples are Portrait of a Bearded Man (National Gallery, London) and Man With a Glove (c. 1520, Louvre, Paris).
The years 1515–40 marked a new period in Titian’s creative career. The artist at this time was deeply affected by the social upsurge taking place in the republic of Venice, which between 1520 and 1540 emerged as a citadel of humanism and urban freedom amid growing feudal reaction. He now favored monumental compositions, which, as in the Assumption of the Virgin (c. 1516–18, Church of Santa Maria dei Frari, Venice), he executed with both force and sensitivity. In Worship of Venus (1518, Prado, Madrid), Bacchus and Ariadne (1523, National Gallery, London), and Entombment (1520’s, Louvre, Paris), Titian created figures that are imbued with vitality. He constructed his compositions on a diagonal scheme, lending to them a powerful sense of movement, and he used intense contrasts of blue and red hues. In an apparent attempt at greater verisimilitude, he often introduced architectural motifs and details of everyday life in his paintings on religious and mythological themes, for example, in Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple (1534–38, Accademia Gallery, Venice), Pesaro Madonna (1526, Church of Santa Maria dei Frari, Venice), and Venus of Urbino (1538, Uffizi Gallery, Florence).
From the late 1530’s to the end of the 1540’s, Titian enjoyed great popularity as a portrait painter. Endowed with uncommon insight into character, he was able to depict a multiplicity of human traits, however contradictory, emphasizing in each instance the trait that was most representative of his subject—whether self-confidence, pride, and dignity or suspicion, hypocrisy, and mendacity. Titian also painted group portraits, in which he revealed without restraint the hidden essence of the relation between those depicted, as well as the dramatic significance of the occasion. With consummate skill he chose the most appropriate composition for each likeness, deciding what pose, expression, movement, and gesture the subject should adopt in consonance with his particular character.
Similarly, beginning in the 1530’s, Titian adopted a unique coloring for each painting. In his color schemes, which were composed of the most subtle tonal shadings, he maintained a meticulous distinction between the dominant and subordinate colors. Largely through such sophisticated combinations of color, Titian was able to invest his portraits with a psychological impact and profound emotional quality that distinguish them from the works of other artists of the same period. He exercised extraordinary care in selecting the color scheme for each work, seeking to achieve a correspondence between the emotional resonance of the color and the principal character trait of the subject. In depicting the body, the background, and the surrounding objects, he employed the dominant color in a progressive order of hues. These techniques are evident in such representative portraits of the period as Ippolito de’ Medici (1532–33), La Bella (c. 1536), and Pietro Aretino (1545), all in the Palatine Gallery, Florence; Pope Paul III and His Grandsons Ottavio and Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1545–46, Museo Nazionale, Naples); Charles V (1548, Alte Pinakothek, Munich); and Charles V at Mühlberg (1548, Prado, Madrid).
The late period of Titian’s creativity began in the mid-16th century. During this period the artist attained a peak not only in his masterly skill as a painter but also in his power to interpret religious and mythological themes. In the final decades of his life, when Italy began experiencing a profound political crisis, Titian staunchly defended the humanistic ideals of the Renaissance against the rising influence of the clerics. In response to the period’s acute conflicts, he gave greater prominence in many of his works to the dramatic principle and chose as a central theme the human body, with its life-asserting force and beauty, which to humanists was symbolic of the real world. Technically, Titian’s late works are characterized by a richness of color and variety of composition, for example, Danae (c. 1554, Prado, Madrid, and Hermitage, Leningrad), Venus and Adonis (1554, Prado, Madrid), The Education of Cupid (c. 1565, Borghese Gallery, Rome), Venus With a Mirror (1550’s, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), and Rape of Europa (c. 1559, Gardner Museum, Boston).
The religious paintings that Titian executed during his late period express his most intimate reflections on human existence in all its tragic aspects. The principal figures in these paintings, although portrayed with a deep sense of tragedy, are nevertheless inherently strong characters, endowed with stoicism and unbreakable will. The triumph of the human spirit constitutes the theme of, among other works, Saint Jerome (c. 1552, Louvre, Paris), Entombment (1559, Prado, Madrid), The Repentant Magdalene (1560’s, Hermitage, Leningrad), Saint Sebastian (Hermitage, Leningrad), Christ Crowned With Thorns (Alte Pinakothek, Munich), and Pietá (1573–76, Accademia Gallery, Venice).
Titian’s late works are distinguished by their extremely refined chromaticism. The artist created a coloristic range subordinated to a muted, golden tone on subtle shadings of cinnamon, dark grayish blue, rosy red, and faded green. His late paintings possess an abundance of halftones, which take on an airy quality. As a result, Titian’s manner of painting is unusually free; composition, form, and light are all constructed with the aid of color modeling. By the end of his life, Titian had developed a new technique of painting, according to which he applied the paints to his canvas with brush, palette knife, or even his fingers. The transparent top layers of his late paintings do not conceal the undercoating but, instead, reveal in places the coarse, grainy surface texture of the canvas. From a formally diverse combination of free brush strokes, which seem to manifest the artist’s creative process, figures emerge that are executed with a vibrant vitality and dramatic quality.
The free manner of painting that Titian devised had a great influence on the subsequent development of painting. His works, for example, have been carefully studied by artists of various countries and periods, among them P. Veronese, J. Tintoretto, El Greco, N. Poussin, P. P. Rubens, D. Velazquez, Rembrandt, E. Delacroix, E. Manet, and V. I. Surikov.
Titian also did many drawings, which are noted for their bold, painterly manner. In them, figures and landscapes are depicted by means of swift, confident lines and soft, chiaroscuro contrasts.
REFERENCESGurvich, N. A. Titsian. Leningrad, 1940.
Titsiano Vechellio. Moscow, 1960. (Compiled with an introduction by T. Fomicheva.)
Smirnova, I. A. Titsian i venetsianskii portret XVI veka. Moscow, 1964.
Lazarev, V. N. “Pozdnii Titsian.” In his book Starye ital’ianskie mastera. Moscow, 1972. Pages 403–45.
Waldmann, E. Tizian. Berlin, 1922.
Gronau, G. Tizian. Berlin, 1930.
Heizer, T. Tizian: Geschichte seiner Farbe. Frankfurt .
Tietze, H. Titian: The Paintings and Drawings. London, 1950.
Pallucchini, R. Tiziano, vols. 1–2. Bologna, 1953–54 [new ed., Florence, 1969].
Wethey, H. E. Paintings of Titian, vols. 1–2. London, 1969–71.
Panofsky, E. Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographic. London, 1970.
V. N. LAZAREV