Titian (1477?-1576), was perhaps the greatest 16th-century Venetian painter and the shaper of the Venetian coloristic and painterly tradition. He is one of the key figures in the history of Western art.
Titian, whose name in Italian is Tiziano Vecellio, was born in Pieve di Cadore, north of Venice, by his own account in 1477; many modern scholars prefer to advance the date to about 1487. In Venice, he studied with Gentile Bellini and then with Giovanni Bellini, but only the latter left a lasting imprint on his style.
Influence of Giorgione
The first documented reference to Titian dates from 1508, when he was commissioned to paint frescoes, with the Venetian painter Giorgione, on the exterior of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi
The first documented reference to Titian dates from 1508, when he was commissioned to paint frescoes, with the Venetian painter Giorgione, on the exterior of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi (the German exchange).
Unfortunately, the frescoes survive only in ruined fragments. Scholars disagree as to which paintings dating from the first decade of the 16th century were actually painted by Titian. Among the most important of the disputed works are the Allendale Nativity (n.d., National Gallery, Washington, D.C.), still assigned to Giorgione by most writers, and the world-famous Concert Champêtre (circa 1510, Louvre, Paris), once universally considered Giorgione’s but now increasingly thought to be by Titian or a work of collaboration between the two. Scholars unanimously ascribe the so-called Gypsy Madonna (circa 1510, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) to Titian. This painting is an adaptation of a composition of Giovanni Bellini’s, but the Virgin is an earthier type, and the colors and textures have a discreet opulence that foreshadows Titian’s later work.
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His Early Independent Work>
In Padua (Padova), in 1511, Titian executed frescoes of three Miracles of St. Anthony for the Scuola del Santo. These narratives demonstrate his power to imbue his ample figures with a convincing sense of anguished, impulsive life, as he set realistically conceived events within vividly and rather impressionistically realized landscapes. In later paintings of this decade Titian progressively enriched Giorgione’s idyllic style. Bodies and fabrics took on an increasingly sensuous density and splendor, landscape settings became more resonant, colors deep and intense but harmonious—as in The Three Ages of Man (circa 1513, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh) and Sacred and Profane Love (circa 1515, Galleria Borghese, Rome).
The progression culminated in three bacchanals that Titian painted for a room in Duke Alfonso d’Este’s palace in Ferrara between 1518 and 1522 (Worship of Venus and Bacchanal of the Andrians, both now in the Prado, Madrid; and Bacchus and Ariadne, now in the National Gallery, London).
These, among the most famous and influential paintings of the Renaissance, transformed the Giorgionesque Arcadian idyll into Dionysiac celebrations. They are based on Roman literature and adapt figures from ancient sculpture and from Michelangelo, but render these vividly sensuous and contemporary, uniting them with an equally powerful and beautiful natural world.
The dynamic vibrancy of these works is paralleled in Titian’s religious paintings of the same period. First among these is the mighty Assumption of the Virgin (1516-18) over the high altar of Santa Maria dei Frari in Venice. Its strong colors, golden light, and massive, gesticulating figures, designed to be seen from afar, nevertheless remain plausible in terms of ordinary human experience. Its unveiling in 1518 provoked a sensation. In another painting for this church, the Madonna of the House of Pesaro (1519-26), Titian effected a crucial change in Renaissance sacre conversazioni (paintings of the Virgin enthroned among saints) by placing the Virgin, traditionally at the composition’s center, halfway up its right side, and by painting behind her in diagonal recession two giant columns that soar out of the picture’s space. This new scheme was widely adopted by later artists, such as Paolo Veronese and the Carracci family, and, with its evocation of movement and infinity, it opened the way to the baroque style. The most dynamic of all Titian’s paintings of this period was the huge Death of St. Peter Martyr (1530, now destroyed), in which the violent action was echoed in the convulsion of trees and sky.
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