King of painters Titian Vecellio (1477-1576)
Titian Vecellio da Cadore is one of the greatest artists of all time, along with such legends of the Italian Renaissance as Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael. Titian, a recognized genius of his time, was called "the king of painters and the painter of kings." The discoveries of this titan of painting in the field of fine art, one way or another, influenced the work of all subsequent artists. Titian played a large role in the development of the mythological genre, landscape and portrait. By the way, to be captured with a master’s brush was the highest award for his contemporaries.
The artist lived a long life, preserving until his last day clarity of thinking, sensitivity of perception, visual acuity and amazing ability to work. This allowed Titian not to let the brush out of his hands until the end of his days and leave the descendants an extensive artistic heritage. In his creations, fragility and solemnity, spirituality and the everydayness of reality, the tragedy and beauty of man and the world were combined in an amazing way. Not without reason, the painter’s works were copied countless times.
The life and work of the artist fell on the period of the highest prosperity of Venice, the very splendor of its power and glory, the time of global changes and historical events. According to various sources, Titian was born in the year 1477 or 1480. His parents belonged to an old family who lived in the small town of Pieve di Calore, located in the Alps. The boy showed his ability to draw early and at the age of ten his parents sent him to Venice to study. The foundations of fine art young Titian comprehended in the workshop of Giovanni Bellini, who played a significant role in the fate of the young artist, introducing him to the already famous painter Giorgione. This meeting played a large role in the life of Titian, thanks to her he early found his own style and gained recognition. And although two talented artists did not become friends – habits, characters and outlooks on life were too different – one cannot underestimate the role that Giorgione played in Titian’s life. The respect of the latter to his elder comrade can be judged by the surviving evidence of how hard Titian suffered the unexpected death of Giorgione (the great artist died unexpectedly when he was only thirty-five years old).
A peculiar tribute to Giorgione’s talent and the important role he played in Titian’s fate was the restoration by the artist of Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus, which had burned in the fire. Titian completely rewrote the canvas irreparably damaged by fire, preserving only the heroine’s pose and her tender face. The modest painter did not begin to sign the picture with his own name and never mentioned the almost complete authorship of the masterpiece attributed to the brush of Giorgione. Perhaps this work was the first milestone in the ensuing confusion, due to which, over the course of many decades, Titian’s paintings, distinguished by their rare perfection of execution, were often attributed to Giorgione’s brushes.
But let’s go back a little, namely in 1508, during the “golden age” of the Italian Renaissance, when a recognized artist invited the young Titian to help him in decorating the German Compound in Venice. Giorgione began to design his part of the German Compound much earlier than his younger comrade, choosing for himself the main facade of the building that looks more advantageous. Titian was left with the back of the courtyard overlooking a narrow street, which was always filled with people. Giorgione, who was not only a talented painter, but also a charming man, he was always surrounded by many friends who came to the place of work every now and then to praise the artist and raise his creative spirit. Titian, distinguished by his silence and isolation, worked mainly in solitude. Not surprisingly, the accomplished and more self-confident Giorgione finished the job much earlier than his young colleague.
When the restoration of the German Compound was finally completed, all of Venice ran to see this miracle. The delight of the audience knew no bounds and, according to numerous testimonies, Titian’s painting was the most sensational. To evaluate the mural paintings, a special commission was created, headed by Bellini. The recollections of one of the witnesses who were present there that day – Dolce survived: “Titian portrayed the magnificent Judith, she is above all praise. The color and design were so perfect that as soon as she appeared before the audience, all Giorgione’s friends, who unanimously decided that this was his work, immediately began to congratulate the artist, assuring him that this was the best of all his creations. ” Unfortunately, at present we cannot judge the work of the two masters, because after only thirty or forty years, the frescoes were almost completely lost due to the very moist, saturated with sea salt, Venetian air, rusted paint. But even from the individual fragments that have survived, it is clear that Titian brilliantly passed this difficult test, declaring himself as a talented artist with a deeply individual style.
And the weight, thanks to participation in this project, started talking about the works of Titian very early, since the first works of the master were notable for their rare realism and careful transfer of details, which was rarely possible for young painters. Not the least role in the early recognition of the artist was played by the extremely favorable situation for creative people in the country. During this period, Venice lived in peace and prosperity, thanks to a powerful fleet, developed trade and a strong economic position.
Create a unique style
It was a time when poets, writers, musicians and artists portrayed happy people against the backdrop of serene nature, and the main themes for works of art were love, beauty and poetry of relationships. In such an environment, the creative path of young Titian began.
Initially, the artist was carried away by the image of nature, and the magic time before sunset, when the sky acquired a bright, saturated color, became his favorite time of day. You can guess that the favorite season of Titian was autumn, with its riot and multicolor colors. True, the love of landscapes did not last long, over time, the master began to give preference to another genre, namely portrait.
People began to attract the artist, with their rich and complex inner world. Among the artist’s early works, “Portrait of a man in a dress with blue sleeves”, which depicts one of the artist’s best friends, the poet Ludovico Ariosto, leaning on the parapet with the initials “TV”, stands out as a special skill. True, there is a version that Titian himself is depicted in the picture, which is now stored in the National Gallery in London. The question remains controversial, but not fundamental, since the main thing in this work is not its object, but the manner of writing of the young artist and the skill with which she was performed. The graceful color of the picture, the lightness of the strokes, the simple and harmonious composition, the beautifully painted fabric of a man’s clothes, looking down at the viewer a little from above, all this characterizes Titian’s already outstanding talent.
Over time, Titian’s work began to be filled with ever greater narrative, dynamics, tension and drama. The nature on them was no longer silent and static, it was filled with life, and people against its background were filled with feelings and movements. For example, in the painting Three Ages of Men (1512, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh), the passage of time and the brevity of the human age are displayed. The plot of the picture, unfolding against the backdrop of a sunny landscape, must be read from right to left. Two babies, sleeping in a sweet sleep in the foreground on the right, depict the serene beginning of life when a person does not yet know what joys and sorrows await him in the future. The little angel guards the peace and safety of the kids, around which the young grass barely makes its way. In the left part of the composition, in the foreground, under a thick crown of a tree, is a young couple in love. This part of the picture represents the middle of life when we are young, full of strength, desires, health and energy. And in the background sits an old man with two skulls in his hands. Skulls symbolize the inevitability of death awaiting each person when his life comes to an end. The head of the old man is lowered to the chest, expressing the sadness and hopelessness of old age. The meaning of the picture is simple – we are all born in order to die later. This topic excited Titian throughout his work, being reflected in other canvases, for example, “Allegory of Time and Mind,” which we will consider later.
The painting “Country Concert” (circa 1510, the Louvre, Paris) also belongs to the initial period of the artist’s creativity, in which Titian managed to convey a surprisingly harmonious fusion of man with nature at a beautiful and quiet evening time. Here in front of us are two young men in beautiful clothes of pale green and bright, red-orange colors. One of them is a musician, he is about to touch the strings of his lute, the other is a villager, he is ready to listen carefully. In the foreground is a naked woman, in her hands a flute, most likely this is Muse. She has her back to the viewer and is carefully looking at the musician. On the left side of the composition is another naked virgin, in her hands is a vessel with water, symbolizing the idea of purifying all living things through communication with art. Nudity of maidens against the background of nature looks very harmonious and is an important allegory of the expression of chaste feelings.
The composition is completed by the background, returning us from this amazing and poetic atmosphere to the prose of life, from which it is impossible to hide from anywhere. The shepherd, wandering with his herd under the dense crowns of trees, became the personification of the earth in the picture. In the depths of the picture you can see the roofs of simple peasant houses, people living in them do not even suspect the existence of this heavenly corner of nature. When you look at the picture, you get the feeling that although the hero has not had time to start playing the lute, the bewitching sounds of music have already managed to fill the whole space. Initially, this painting was attributed to the brush of Giorgione, since it very strongly influences his methods – the image of an ideal world filled with dreams and illusions, existing outside of real time and space.
The topic of contrasting the lofty and the earthly was reflected in another work by Titian, belonging to the same period. In the painting “Interrupted Concert” (circa 1510, Palazzo Pitti, Florence), we see a young monk enthusiastically playing on a spinet. Behind him is an elderly man who is trying to stop the young man’s game by touching his shoulder. The monk reluctantly breaks away from his occupation: his thin fingers continue to flutter above the keys, although his head is already turned to the side. The face of the senior comrade is stern, the reason is the young man standing on the left, in the clothes of a patrician with an arrogant and empty look, turned past the musicians, with an ironic smile fixed on his lips.
The main idea of the picture is that the sublime world of art, harmony, beauty and love can always be destroyed by brute reality breaking into the most unexpected way. So in the picture, the indifference of the patrician, far from the world of music, and, in fact, indifferent to it, makes a man with a lute in his hands stop his fascinated comrade, so as not to waste strength and inspiration on a person who is not able to appreciate it.
Perhaps the plot of the painting was influenced by the works of the philosopher Plato, published at that time in Venice, who in his "Laws" expressed the idea that: "the most beautiful art is that which is perceived only by the elect."
One of Titian’s first biblical paintings is a painting entitled “Do Not Touch Me” (circa 1512, National Gallery, London). At the heart of the canvas is an episode from the Gospel in which Jesus Christ appears to Mary Magdalene, and she, in order to make sure that He is really alive and not a dream, reaches out to Him. But Jesus bashfully covering his nakedness with a shroud, he says: "Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father." The background for the plot is the landscape – a tall tree depicted in the center of the canvas, houses rise to the right on the hill, and the sea is visible in the distance. The figures of Mary and Christ in the foreground literally glow, masterfully selected colors in golden, brown and ocher tones for a long time made art historians think that the painting belongs to the brush of Giorgione.
Love and envy of those in power
Titian, from an early age treated kindly by those in power, was offered many times to leave his beloved Venice and settle under the wing of one or another patron. But the artist was too fond of this city and expected to build his life and career here. Therefore, having achieved some recognition, the painter wrote a letter of appeal to the rulers of the city, in which he proposed to undertake the most difficult work of scheduling the hall of the Great Council. Along with this, he asked to consider his candidacy for the vacant position of a salt supply intermediary at the German Compound by that time. At first glance, this is strange, but this administrative position in Venice was occupied, as a rule, by artists. This was due to the specifics of their work, requiring knowledge of minerals, whether it be salt or paint. The intermediary position was a tidbit for any artist of that time. She gave the right to receive an annual salary and the honorary title of official painter of the Republic of St. Mark. And this, in turn, provided the artist with work – he automatically received most of the state order, including the portraits of all new doges for the Great Council hall. In addition, the treasury paid many of the artist’s expenses: renting a workshop, purchasing canvases and paints, as well as some other needs.
And so, in 1513, Titian was incredibly lucky – the Government Council accepted his proposal. The happy artist began to settle in a new place. Many students came to his workshop, young artists dreamed of working with such a recognized and famous master, more mature painters envied his advantageous and honorable position. But, unfortunately, Titian’s joy did not last long. Another venerable artist, Giovanni Bellini, in whose workshop young Titian worked, was outraged by this appointment, and he turned to his patron – one of the influential Venetian Doges – with a request to challenge the decision of the Council. As a result, a scandal erupted, and the decision to appoint Titian was quickly reversed. This was also facilitated by a change in the composition of the Grand Council, which happened so at the wrong time for the young artist. Titian was furious, but did not abandon his ambitious plans. The result of his struggle was his new appointment to the post of salt intermediary, which took place only four years later, in 1517.
Titian partially expressed his anger at those in power in his work The Caesar’s Dinarium, created in 1516 (now the painting is in the Dresden Art Gallery). The canvas is painted with an unusually rich and rich palette, thanks to which the image seems very embossed. The composition of the picture is simple and expressive. Two figures, shown waist-high, seem to collide on the canvas. These are two opposites – virtues in the image of Christ standing in the center and greed in the image of the Pharisee, as if invading the picture from the right. The hypocrite extends the denarius to Christ, his whole appearance provocative and unpleasant. Christ, on the contrary, is an embodiment of purity and sincerity, his figure on a dark background, as it were, illuminates the whole canvas. He calmly looks at the Pharisee, in his eyes confidence and a dumb question: "Why are you tempting me?" The meaning of the picture is simple and understandable – the Lord knows all our thoughts, because He is the All-Seeing, and His answer is simple, but deep: "Give Caesar what is Caesar’s, but God the God." Taking the traditional biblical plot, the artist reflected in it his innermost thoughts about good and evil. The overall color of the picture is alarming. Bright, as if filled with light, the robes of Christ, coupled with his impeccable enlightened face, sharply contrast with the brown-golden hues that depict the Pharisee, embodying all the evil and injustice of the world. Its appearance is colorful – a rough nose with a hump, a high forehead, an earring in the ear, tanned skin, a sinewy hand holds out a coin. It is no coincidence that two figures, one of which represents goodness and nobility, and the other – all the baseness and meanness that a person is capable of, occupy such a different space on the canvas. It is not by chance that Titian cuts the figure of the Pharisee, presses him to the edge of the picture, thereby showing his attitude to the question of the struggle between good and evil, his endless belief that the divine principle stored in every person can defeat all the vices of the world.
Search for personal happiness
The personal life of the artist did not work out right away. For a long time he could not find his beloved to his liking. For the first time, the thought of marriage was visited by Titian when he met the daughter of his friend – a very young girl named Violana. Unfortunately, there was no evidence that his love was mutual, but judging by the fact that Violana often visited the artist’s studio and posed for him for a number of works, Titian was not indifferent to her. True, despite this, the marriage did not take place. Titian’s biographers can only speculate about the reasons for this outcome, but most likely, the girl’s parents opposed the union.
The artist immortalized his love and passion for Violanta in the painting Flora, written around 1515 (now the work belongs to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence). This work became a real masterpiece of young Titian. The picture is saturated with sensuality and admiration for female beauty. A beautiful golden-haired girl holds in her right hand a bunch of the first spring flowers, with her other hand she holds a cloak sliding off her shoulder, almost exposing her full chest. The image of Violana later appeared in many works of the master (“Heavenly Love and Earthly Love”, “Solomei”, “Young Woman with a Mirror”, “Violana” and others), as an embodiment of true beauty and femininity. But Flora became the most famous of them, the canvas was copied and copied by other artists many times.
The second significant work of the artist, written in the same period of time, was “Heavenly Love and Earthly Love” (circa 1515, Borghese Gallery, Rome). The ideological inspiration of the picture was Bembo’s “Azolan Nymphs” and the novel “Love Battles in Polyphilus Dreams”, which were actively discussed in Venetian salons. The roots of both lie in Roman mythology, in which two Venus personified the unity of opposites – sublime platonic feelings and carnal desires and passions.
The canvas is painted in surprisingly bright and light colors that convey a joyful perception of life and the world around it, it is full of allegories and symbols, as it was created by order of a person who is well versed in art. In the foreground of the picture are the figures of two beautiful women who are sitting near the source. On the left is the beautiful Violana in the image of Earthly Love. Her dress was intercepted by a belt with a metal buckle, which depicts the symbol of matrimony, his emblem is a wreath of twigs of myrtle tree on her head. Heavenly love in the right part of the picture solemnly holds a lit lamp in his raised hand, as if blessing earthly love for reciprocity. It is hard not to notice that, despite the fact that the two women on the canvas are, as it were, opposites of each other – in fact they are on the same face.The difference is only in the outfits of the heroines. Heavenly Love is naked, only a piece of white fabric covers her hips – this is a symbol of her purity and innocence, her red cape sharply contrasts with the modest and restrained colors of the clothes of Earthly Love.
As in any canvas of that era, the background played no less important role in the symbolic meaning of the picture than its main characters. Sensual and at the same time unusually clear landscape is divided into two parts by a mighty tree. In the “earthly” half of the picture is depicted a rich house and a rider approaching to it, which obviously a loving and faithful wife is waiting outside the gate. Hares, left behind the figure of earthly love mean fertility. The landscape on the right side of the picture includes a church bell tower amid mountain ranges, a lake and a flock of sheep with a shepherd guarding them. Cupid in the center of the canvas is busy catching the fallen rose petals from the water.
In this unusually harmonious composition, the master in a very elegant manner tries to solve the actual and ethical dilemma for himself on the relationship between exalted feeling and carnal passion. The lyrical work is filled with many very realistic details that characterize the current author’s style of Titian, as well as its rich palette. The customer of the canvas, an official in love with the Grand Council, was very pleased with the painting, not even suspecting that it would become a great masterpiece of world painting.
At the same time, the painting “Madonna with Cherries” was painted (1515, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). The canvas is distinguished by the brightness of the coloristic solution and the exact detailing of all figures and objects, which, undoubtedly, speaks of the great talent and skill of its author.
As for the story of the unfulfilled love of Titian and young Violana, she, having met with the opposition of others and relatives, by itself came to naught. The master returned home, not even suspecting that it was there that fate awaited him. The artist’s elder brother brought a new housekeeper to his house – a simple girl, Chechilia. With her, the artist’s house was filled with cleanliness and comfort, his hearth came to life, the kitchen was full of mouth-watering aromas. Titian was struck by the simplicity, spontaneity, modesty and nobility of Chechilia. But then he still did not know that it was she who would become his companion for life, a faithful friend and mother of three children.
The official painter of the Republic of St. Mark
In 1517, Titian, finally approved as the official artist of the Republic of St. Mark, worked to create the altar image of the Ascension of Mary (1516-1518, Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice). On the opening day, the church was crowded with eminent guests and ordinary people. When the cover was solemnly removed from the altar, those present literally gasped from the blinding light that it exuded. The emotional intensity reached its peak expressed in cries of delight and indignation, such a stunning effect produced a new creation of the artist. It became a new milestone in the history of Venetian and world painting, in which it will be difficult to find a work that is distinguished by the same powerful emotional impact. The art of the then famous Bellini and Carpaccio never reached such heights,and world painting at that time had no other examples of such a large-scale and monumental picture.
The composition of the work is divided into three parts. In the lower part are three-meter figures of the eleven apostles, escorting the Virgin, ascending to heaven. The master perfectly conveyed their emotions through tense, agitated expressions of their faces. The apostles are executed so realistically that it seems to the viewer that he will now hear their desperate groans and exclamations. In the center of the fresco depicts the majestic figure of the Mother of God, saying goodbye to this world and escorted by angels to God. The expression of her face is calm, in her gaze there is peace and quiet joy from the upcoming meeting with Heavenly Father. And finally, in the upper part of the composition the Lord is depicted, waiting for the virgin Mary with two angels. Unfortunately, the picture was not preserved. Time greatly influenced her, the colors faded and showered, in addition, for many reasons,a huge canvas was constantly transported from one place to another, which also could not but affect its safety. However, there is no doubt that with this masterpiece Titian proved to his compatriots how deservedly he received his position as the chief artist of the Republic of St. Mark.
Masterpieces of the artist were born one after another. In 1520, the magnificent “Portrait of a Man with Gloves” was painted (the Louvre, Paris), which depicts a typical representative of the intelligentsia of that time, who was close in spirit to Titian himself. The depicted man is immersed in his own thoughts, he is dreamy and thoughtful, in his hands are gloves, but he seems to have forgotten about them. Despite the apparent detachment, his face is clearly expressed active position towards life. He gives the impression of a person who is very self-sufficient, self-confident and knowledgeable in life. In this image, Titian presented a certain hero of his time, the one whom he would so like to meet in the Venetian society: an educated, thin, intelligent and deep man who retained dignity and spiritual nobility, despite a very difficult time, when lies reign everywhere, hypocrisy and anger.
In addition to portraits and religious painting, from 1520 to 1523, Titian creates several paintings with a mythological plot. Mythology and allegory were the undisputed skate of the master, however, after the creation of the paintings “Bacchus and Ariadne” and “Bacchanalia on the island of Andros”, the artist for a long time deviated from mythological plots. Titian’s biographers attribute this to the fact that the painter actively participated in the life of society, whose problems constantly worried him. The blind joy and unbridled fun of mythological heroes were too far from the reality surrounding the artist with its vices and problems.
The plot of the painting “Bacchus and Ariadne” (1520-1523, National Gallery, London) shows us the victorious return of Bacchus (in ancient Greek mythology of Dionysus) from India to the island of Naxos, where Ariadne yearns alone. The chariot of Bacchus, harnessed by two leopards, is already calmly standing on the shore, and the god himself promptly jumps from her to his beloved Ariadne. The appropriate Bacchus escort is a fun company of satyrs and bacchanals. They run after the leader, who, having lifted a calf leg above his head, and who are trying to break out of the gripe of a boa constrictor. Below, a small satyr, still a child, drags the head of a calf, on which the dog barks, on the ground. The boy looks at the viewer with a mischievous look with a sly grin, as if waiting for a response from the public to his venture.
The purple cape of the naked Bacchus flutters in the wind, his whole figure is unusually dynamic, it reflects his impatience. The figure of Ariadne, on the contrary, is turned away from the viewer, as if closed from him. It seems that Bacchus, with his swiftness, scares her. Ariadne, shocked by everything that happens, hides behind her hand, not knowing what to do next. The backdrop for the action is a landscape depicting mighty trees, a distant village, mountains on the horizon and the sea.
The second mythological picture of this period was “Bacchanalia on the island of Andros” (1523, Prado Museum, Madrid). The canvas depicts an orgy of the inhabitants of the island, their numerous bodies fill almost the entire space of the picture. Here, men and women who drink, have fun and atrocities. In the background on the right on the hill lay a naked drunk Selen, in the right front part of the canvas a naked girl is depicted, she already pretty drank wine and fell asleep right here, on a white blanket, apparently forgetting her nakedness. In the center, next to the sleeping one, a small child is relieving herself.
At the end of this year, the artist learned the sad news – a talented Italian painter, a representative of the classical Venetian school Vittore Carpaccio, died. It was to him that Titian dedicated his new painting, “The Position in the Sepulcher” (1523, Louvre Museum, Paris).
The composition of the picture is rich, made in red-orange and black tones, transmitting drama and anxiety of a dynamic plot. There is almost no background, only a gray sky and a dark, almost black forest in the right corner. On the left are the mournful figures of the Mother of God and Mary Magdalene comforting her, who supports her by the shoulders. Both of them watch with horror as the three disciples carry the lifeless body of Christ to be laid in a tomb. The foreground of the picture is filled with radiance emanating from the body of Christ, as if shining from within. It seems to glow from the inside, filling the foreground of the canvas with radiance. The picture is built on a combination of red and black colors, transmitting a dramatic episode of alarming and dynamic.
Portraits of doges for the hall of the Great Council occupied a large share in the work of Titian as a court artist, but, unfortunately, almost all of them were burned during numerous fires. An honorable place in the gallery of preserved court portraits belonging to Titian’s brush is occupied by “Portrait of Federico II Gonzaga” (circa 1525-1529, Prado Museum, Madrid), on which the doge is captured with his beloved lapdog. Gonzaga is depicted almost at full height. His dark blue clothes, decorated with amazing ornaments, give the image a luxury and a certain solemnity. A doge’s face with delicate aristocratic features and a neat well-groomed beard is full of self-esteem. He looks at the viewer with a distant look. Gonzag’s graceful well-groomed fingers stroke the dog, which is pressed against the owner with his whole body.
Series of losses
In the heyday of his public recognition and relevance, the artist suffered a personal tragedy. During the birth of their second son with Titian, Cecilia suddenly began to bleed heavily. This news greatly shocked the painter and, fearing the worst, he decided to immediately get married. Titian invited the best doctors to Cecilia, with whose efforts she finally got better, but the artist did not change his mind about getting married. This news quickly spread all over Venice, because Titian was a very famous artist and public figure. However, he and Cecilia arranged a very modest wedding ceremony at home in the circle of only the closest and dearest people.
It was in 1525, Titian stayed with his family for a little while, and when Cecilia became strong enough, he went back to Venice, where he was awaited by numerous unfinished orders.
In 1530, Titian embarked on a new religious-themed canvas, Dinner at Emmaus (Louvre, Paris). The traditional gospel storyline depicts the risen Christ sitting at a table covered with a snow-white tablecloth. On both sides of him are his students, next to the owner of the institution and the waiter, watching this wonderful phenomenon. Christ blesses the served dishes with a gesture of his hands. The whole composition is very light, lyrical, sustained in bright and gentle colors, it is written with light free strokes.
Time flies quickly, and the constantly busy Titian is again informed about the grave condition of his wife. The artist throws everything and rushes home. He barely manages to catch Chechilia, which has changed beyond recognition. After the birth of their third child, a daughter named Lavinia, the poor woman again experienced severe bleeding. Despite all the efforts of the doctors, after a sleepless night that Titian spent at his wife’s bedside, she died on August 5, 1530.
The artist unusually hard suffered this loss. According to the descriptions of his contemporaries, he lived like in a dream, continued to do something, met with people, but as if he had not seen and heard no one. All of Titian’s thoughts were occupied by his beloved Cecilia, who for many years was his faithful friend, devoted wife and loving mother of their children. Only after he lost her did the artist realize how much light this woman, who was so noble and modest, brought to his life. Cecilia filled his house with warmth and comfort, she surrounded Titian with endless care, so that nothing would stop him from creating his masterpieces. Once, the artist wandered around his house, thinking about his irreparable loss, when he stumbled upon an unfinished canvas, which the customer had long been waiting for. It was the Madonna and the Rabbit (circa 1530, Louvre Museum, Paris). Titian’s eyes filled with tears – Cecilia looked at him from the picture, embodied in the image of a woman standing to the left of the Virgin Mary.
Time passed, the children grew up. The two sons of Titian were complete opposites of each other: the eldest Pomponio was selfish and lazy, and the younger Orazio, on the contrary, was calm and complaisant. Little Lavinia was very similar to her mother. Titian every day more and more clearly understood that he had more oppression to be in the house, where every corner reminds him of his dead wife. But the artist was also tired of Venice, he did not want to return there. The painter for a long time was looking for a new home in a quiet secluded corner. And so, on September 1, 1531 he succeeded – he rented a two-story house with a wide terrace and a mezzanine on the outskirts of Biri Grande.
In 1532, Titian embarks on his first full-length portrait. This is a “Portrait of Emperor Charles V with a Dog” (Prado Museum, Madrid).
Hours of posing helped to establish a very friendly relationship between the artist and the emperor. The emperor sincerely told Titian about his life and about himself. Charles V was a man infinitely tired of power, whose life was filled with soulless formality and formalities. That is why the painter portrayed the emperor in simple clothes, and not in a luxurious full dress, thereby emphasizing that his hero, first of all, is a man. The only faithful creature in his life was the dog pictured next to him. According to eyewitnesses, Charles V was very pleased with the painting and admired the skill of the artist. Filled with emotion, the emperor parted tightly hugged the painter. The retinue of Charles V, who was present at all this subsequently overwhelmed the artist with orders, providing him with work for a long time.
Following this, Titian overtook another loss – his mother died. This event plunged him into an even deeper depression. Only the joyful laughter of the children in his new home helped the master stay and live on. And yet, for several years the artist lived like a recluse, without leaving his workshop for days. He worked extremely hard, and devoted his free hours to talking with children.
Pinnacles of excellence
After the loss of Cecilia in the house of Titian, his sister Orsa began to farm, she also was engaged in raising children. Time passed, and once Orsa noticed that every evening a gondola floated to the painter’s house, in which a young woman sat, always trying to go unnoticed. She quickly climbed the outer staircase directly to the artist’s workshop, located on the second floor. Of course, it never occurred to anyone to reproach the painter, on the contrary, the relatives hoped that the appearance of a new lover would somehow brighten up the solitude of Titian and help him regain the joy of life. The result of this hobby was such work, depicting a beautiful stranger, such as “Portrait of a young woman in a hat with a feather”, “Girl in a fur cape”, as well as the magnificent “Venus Urbinskaya”.
“Girl in a Fur Cape”, written in 1535 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) was a commissioned work and is an allegory of marriage. A young girl is depicted on the canvas playfully covering one breast with a fur cape, while her second breast remains naked. The girl’s timid look and delicate blush on her cheeks only emphasizes the erotic meaning of the picture, which consists in contrasting female flesh and fluffy fur. A similar composition is in the painting “Portrait of a Young Woman in a Hat with a Feather” (1536, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), where the model also has her right shoulder, chest and arm. Under the trimmed fur cloak you can see a translucent white shirt. A hat with feathers decorated with stones is on the girl’s head. In both paintings, the artist does not hide his admiration, on the verge of frank lust,the beauty of a young female body. The heroine’s snow-white skin, written in light, weightless strokes, contrasts sharply with the rich dark background, thanks to which her image seems even more delicate and fragile.
And in 1538, by order of the governor of Venice, Guidobaldo della Rovere, who will later be Titian’s regular customer, the painting “Venus Urbinskaya” (Uffizi Art Gallery, Florence) was painted. This picture was the wedding gift of the duke to the future wife. The golden-haired Venus, lying in a graceful pose on snow-white sheets, is full of bliss, in her right hand is a rosehip branch. Her gaze is calm and sure, she is not shy of her nakedness. A beautiful body is written so thinly and lightly that it seems as if a glow emanates from it. At the feet of Venus, instead of the traditional cupids, a small dog sits and sleeps. In the background of the painting is a room bathed in the bright light of a sunny morning. On the window of Venus is a pot of myrtle, representing marriage and fidelity. Two handmaids scurry around her chest,picking outfit for the morning toilet of the hostess. Oddly enough, Venus Titian is not at all a celestial, but a very real earthly woman, who appears before us in frankly naked beauty.
If we follow the approximate chronology, then, from the works known to us, there is the canvas “Crowning with a Crown of Thorns”. This painting exists in two versions: one of them is stored in the Louvre (1542), and the other in the Old Pinakothek of Munich (1572-1576). The composition of the two paintings is very similar. In the center of the canvas is the figure of the tortured Christ, surrounded by five tormentors and three steps leading to the place of public scourging. The difference is only in the background. At an early work, a brutal scene of mockery of Jesus takes place against a backdrop of a brightly lit stone arch above which stands a bust of the emperor Tiberius. In a later picture, only a lighted chandelier is visible at the top of the canvas. In both cases, Christ humbly endures bullying and pain from people who vehemently attacked him with spears. After all, He has already forgiven them, and this gives His image true majesty.
In 1545, Titian creates another outstanding portrait of the Doge of Venice, “Portrait of the Doge Andrea Gritti” (National Art Gallery, Washington). It depicts a ruler with a stern gaze of cruel eyes, betraying his merciless and oppressive character. Deep red clothing once again emphasizes his charisma and desire for leadership. On the doge there is a cloak from an expensive, as if luminous fabric of brown-golden tones and the same headdress.
The closed and uncommunicative Titian had very few close friends. One of them was the poet and writer Pietro Lretino. These were two very different people: Lretino was very cheerful, loving, loved luxury, feasts and festivities, talkative and self-confident, he had great connections. Titian liked optimism, cordiality, charisma and the fact that the poet was very well versed in art and literature. Titian even became the godfather of one of the daughters of Loretino. In 1545 he painted his portrait. In the painting “Portrait of Pietro Lretino” (Palazzo Pitti, Florence), almost the entire space of the canvas is occupied by the figure of the poet. The canvas is written using numerous variations of red and golden colors, they will fill it with energy and power of spirit, revealing the character of the hero. There is evidence that Lretino was dissatisfied with the work, in particular,he did not like that the golden chain (received as a gift from King Francis I) was almost invisible on his chest and glistened too dimly. True, this could be a joke of the poet, misinterpreted by an eyewitness.
In the same year, in 1545, Titian writes "Portrait of a Young Man" (Palazzo Pitti, Florence). A handsome man with a hypnotic and bewitching look of greenish eyes looks at the viewer from the canvas. For a long time it was believed that the picture depicts the English Duke of Howard, so the painting was called "Portrait of a Young Englishman." But in 1928, the art critic Venturi put forward his own version, supported by convincing evidence. He believed that the man on canvas was Ippolito Riminaldi, a lawyer, another friend of Titian, whom he loved to meet during his trips to Ferrara. As for the composition of the canvas, it is extremely simple: before us is a young man in a strict black camisole, white lace cuffs peeking out from under his collar and sleeves. His left hand lies on his hip, and in his right he holds gloves.The overall color of the canvas is very restrained, it is built on a combination of two primary colors: black and gray. Only white spots of cuffs and brown gloves dilute them. It is amazing how accurately and subtly his face is written out with thoughtful, clever eyes. In all its appearance, nobility shines through.
In 1548, Titian painted another portrait of Charles V. The emperor confessed to the artist, with whom he became close even earlier that he was tired of the sight of blood being shed and that he lived only waiting for the upcoming meeting with his unforgettable wife. Full of sincere compassion, Titian conveyed his feelings in “Portrait of Charles V in an Armchair” (Old Pinakothek, Munich). Here the emperor is depicted sitting in an armchair against the backdrop of a deserted dull landscape, from which he still blows with cold and longing. Charles V sits in an armchair, dressed in all black, as if forgetting to take off one glove. The red floor contrasts sharply with the colors of his clothes and headgear. The emperor is very sad, thoughtful and lonely.
Perfection of style
The last fifteen years of the artist’s life, when he had already exchanged the eighth dozen, is usually called the late period of his work. This is the time when Titian again turns to his favorite mythological theme, which he always interpreted in his individual spirit.
The painting “Venus and Adonis” (Prado Museum, Madrid) dates back to 1533, the plot of which shows us a scene of parting. Venus tries to keep her beloved, absorbed in the thirst for hunting and not listening to her warnings about impending danger. Trying to keep Adonis, with the force breaking out of her arms, Venus accidentally knocks over a vase with her foot. In the background of the picture, under the thick crown of a tree, Cupid sleeps quietly, designed to protect their love. The dynamic and exciting character of the plot contrasts sharply with the landscape around, filled with calm and pacification, nothing that portends trouble in it. In this hunt, where Adonis died, Titian sees a metaphor for human life: people are always looking for something, they want more, they are ready to risk their health and life, go against fate, even forgetting about God, who will inevitably punish them for this. The picture was an unprecedented success with the public. The artist had to make about twenty copies of the canvas with various variations of similar plots.
The second incredibly popular painting by Titian, which he had to copy many times, was Venus with a Mirror, painted around 1555 (National Gallery, Washington). She has a fair-haired Venus covering her breasts with her left hand, she hides her knees under her bright blanket with her right hand. Two chubby cupids hold mirrors in front of her. The goddess’s cheeks burn with a charming blush that symbolizes blooming youth and beauty. The masterpiece was in Russia, but in 1931, by order of the government of the USSR and regardless of the opinion of the directorate of the State Hermitage, it was sold to a private person. Later, the picture was in the National Gallery of Washington.
Another masterpiece of the late period of Titian’s work is the painting “The Abduction of Europe” (1559-1562, the Isabella Stewart-Gardner Museum, Boston), the plot of which reproduces one of the episodes of Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Technically, the picture was done freely and boldly, this distinguished the last works of the master, written in wide, careless strokes. If you look at the picture from close up, it is difficult to understand what is painted on it and only from a distance a great masterpiece of Titian is revealed to us. In fact, these paintings were the forerunners of impressionism, when you look at them, it seems that the whole work is written at one time, easily, naturally, on a grand scale.
In the spring of 1559, Titian fell into an unpleasant position. His youngest son, Orazio, went to Milan, where he was supposed to receive from the treasury a very large amount of money belonging to his father. On the way home, they attacked the young man, beating him and robbing him. As it turned out later, the robbery was arranged by the sculptor Leone Leoni, who also worked for the royal court. Titian immediately suspected Leone and wrote a letter to Philip II, the text of which reached us: “Leone, who knew about the payment of state benefits and was prompted by devilish instigation, decided to take Orazio’s life in order to appropriate his money… He invited Orazio to his house and offered him to live in his house. My son rejected this offer and this villain, expelled from Spain for Lutheranism and spurred on by an enemy of the Lord God, decided to commit the murder with the help of accomplices.The scoundrels attacked Orazio with swords and daggers in their hands, having previously thrown a net over his head. Not expecting such a betrayal, my poor Orazio fell, having received six serious wounds. If Oratio died, on whom I have all my hopes in impending old age, then, under the weight of this grief, I swear I would lose my mind. " At the end of the letter, he demanded to punish Leoni with all the severity of the law. The sculptor was arrested, but after he paid the fine, he was released.At the end of the letter, he demanded to punish Leoni with all the severity of the law. The sculptor was arrested, but after he paid the fine, he was released.At the end of the letter, he demanded to punish Leoni with all the severity of the law. The sculptor was arrested, but after he paid the fine, he was released.
Before Titian recovered from this shock, his brother Francesco passed away. The artist’s biographers suggest that in the same period, the beloved daughter of the artist Lavinia died in childbirth. A series of these events hit the master very hard.
In 1550, at the age of seventy-three years, the artist began to write “Self-Portrait” (State Museum of Art, Berlin), completed only eleven years later. On it, Titian appears before the viewer as not a decrepit and feeble old man, who only has to humbly wait for his death. On the contrary, we see a strong and confident person in front of us. A fur cape is thrown over the broad shoulders of the master, a shirt underneath it, on which a golden chain is clearly visible. The fingers of his hands drum on the table, which characterizes his restless disposition and concentration. It seems that in a moment the artist will cheerfully stand up and with great strides will go to create his next masterpiece. In the narrowed gaze of Titian we see wisdom and a genuine interest in life. Most likely, this self-portrait was created for children,since until the death of the painter was in his house.
Around 1565, Titian received an order for the painting “Penitent Mary Magdalene” (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg). The model for the canvas was a certain Julia Festina, who delighted the master with a shock of long golden hair. The duke of Gonzago really liked the painting, he immediately ordered a copy of the canvas to give it to a certain poetess. The work was such a resounding success that Titian decided to immediately make several copies, changing in each only the position of the heroine’s hands, the tilt of his head and the surrounding landscape background. The biographer of Titian Ridolfi points out six paintings by Titian with the penitent Mary Magdalene. One of the surviving canvas options is kept in Moscow in a private collection. But, according to experts, the best of them is the one that is represented in the State Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg. On her the image of the penitent Mary is the most chaste.Her beautiful body is covered with light translucent clothes and a striped cape, as well as flowing hair scattered over her shoulders and chest. The penitent Magdalen looks at the sky with a look full of remorse, her eyes are full of tears and despair. In the foreground of the picture are Christian symbols – the skull and the revealed Scripture.
In 1565, Titian creates another of his best masterpieces – “Portrait of the Antiquarian Jacopo Strada” (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). The painting perfectly conveys the character of the collector depicted in "his element" – around him are old books, coins, on the wall is either a painting, or part of an ancient manuscript. Jacopo shows the invisible interlocutor a figurine made of white marble, his face and the whole pose are filled with energy, inspiration and even excitement. The canvas has an unusually harmonious color. The clothes of the antique dealer and his whole environment are made in warm colors creating an atmosphere of a certain solemnity. This picture was a vivid example of a “different” painting discovered by Titian on his declining years. Later, this direction, with its richness of colors and shades, and unusually skillful transmission of chiaroscuro, will be developed by such artists,like Rembrandt and Caravaggio. But this will be more than 100 years later, and now, Titian, already at a very advanced age, having undergone many adversities and personal afflictions, continues to create.
The last years of the master’s life
In recent years, the artist often wrote for the soul. The house of Titian was constantly full – many students, artists, collectors and famous guests came to him in all of Italy and from other countries. Nevertheless, prone to melancholy and meditation, Titian, in fact, remained lonely. He often recalled his youth and beloved Chechilia, indulged in thoughts of the frailty of being and yearned for all those who had taken his time. The result of these sad arguments and spiritual loneliness was the painting “Allegory of Time and Reason”, written around 1565 (National Gallery, London), which is considered a kind of testament of the master to his descendants. According to tradition, the picture should be read from left to right, that is, counterclockwise, and from top to bottom. The old in a red cap symbolizes the past, the black-bearded man is the present, and the young man is the future. Animalsthe pictures drawn at the bottom of the picture are also symbolic: the wolf represents the forces of man that selects the past, the lion represents the present, and the dog awakens the future with his bark.
In 1570, Titian creates the painting “The Shepherd and the Nymph” (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). This light, freely written canvas was no one’s order; the artist created it for himself. The naked nymph lies on the skin of a dead animal, facing its back to the viewer and turning its head slightly. The young virgin is not at all embarrassed by her nudity. Next to her is a shepherd who is about to start playing a musical instrument, although perhaps he just broke off, carried away by the beauty or the words of the heroine. The overall color of the picture is intentionally thickened by the author, this creates a certain secret and understatement in the relations of the main characters, enhanced by the inclusion of brown and ashy dark tones. The background landscape is blurry, there you can see only a piece of a broken tree, as if remaining after a storm. He does not affect lovers,living in their own world of beauty and bliss and noticing anything around. Despite the romantic composition of the picture, the chaos prevailing in the landscape surrounding the characters and the choice of colors, nevertheless tell us that in the artist’s soul there was no joy in harmony. It is as if his own question is visible in the bewildered look of the nymph – what will happen to them next, how to find joy again in the destroyed Universe.
Soon another misfortune happened, the father of Titian died. But the artist could not give up, he continued to create. Thanks to his regular customer, Philip II, Titian was always provided with work. So, around 1570, the master began to create the work “Carrying the Cross” (Prado Museum, Madrid), which took five years to complete. At the heart of the picture is a classic gospel story. According to Scripture, Simon the Cyrene was sent to Christ to help him carry the heavy cross to Calvary. Jesus’ face is full of torment and pain, his right shoulder seems almost transparent. The image of Simon, as if opposed to the image of Christ. On his finger is an expensive ring, emphasizing its difficult origin. Simon’s clean face with a neat, well-groomed beard contrasts sharply with the face of Jesus covered in drops of blood.The whole picture is divided diagonally by the bottom of the cross, which further enhances the overall dissonance.
Religious themes go through all of Titian’s work, but according to the plots of the paintings themselves and the manner in which they are executed, one can trace how the artist’s worldview has changed, his attitude to virtue, vices and the theme of martyrdom. This is perfectly reflected in the canvases dedicated to the great martyr Sebastian.
In the first works, Saint Sebastian appears before us humble and humble, but in the last work of the artist, he is determined and ready to fight to the end. This painting, entitled “St. Sebastian” (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), was painted around 1570. The background in the picture is blurry, it is impossible to make out anything on it, and only the figure of the hero himself, nailed to a tree, stands out for its purity. His body is punctured by arrows, but his face is not distorted by pain. Pride and calm were in his gaze, his face was slightly raised, and his brows were frowning. It is believed that Titian here depicted himself, not in the literal sense, but allegorically. Thus, he expressed his attitude to his own fate, to all the betrayals and losses that he, by the end of his life, had learned to endure steadfastly and with dignity.In this work, the artist’s faith is concluded that an individual hero is able to endure any blows of fate, he will survive, even if the whole world around him is turned upside down, he will be able to withstand and not break. The color of the picture seems blurry and monochrome, but hundreds of colors and nuances burn in every centimeter of it. The fate of the picture was such that in 1853, by decree of Emperor Nicholas I, she was placed in the storerooms of the Hermitage, where she lay until 1892. Only after many years did this work take its rightful place in the museum hall.that in 1853, by decree of Emperor Nicholas I, she was placed in the storerooms of the Hermitage, where she lay until 1892. Only after many years did this work take its rightful place in the museum hall.that in 1853, by decree of Emperor Nicholas I, she was placed in the storerooms of the Hermitage, where she lay until 1892. Only after many years did this work take its rightful place in the museum hall.
In the same year, Titian wrote another work, with a similar idea. At the heart of the painting “The Punishment of Marcia” (Picture Gallery, Kromeriz). lies the myth of the satire of Marcia, who dared to challenge Apollo to a musical contest. Marsyas played the double flute, and Apollo played the lyre. When the muses could not choose a winner, Apollo offered to compete in vocal skills. Here, Martius lost. In punishment for the defeat, Apollo decides to strip his skin, this moment is depicted in the picture.
In the center of the canvas is the figure of Marcia, suspended by her legs from a tree. Around him are heroes who are carried away by the process of the monstrous torture of the satyr. The picture is divided into two parts: to the left of Marcia’s body are people who are fascinated by his killing, she rip off his skin, not hiding her pleasure. On the right side of the canvas are those who are saddened by this brutal murder. These include the elder, who, presumably, depicts Titian himself. He sadly observes the death of Marcia and the cruelty of his executioners. The face of the satyr himself retains the dignity of imminent death. Art historians believe that the plots of the latest paintings by Titian characterize his farewell to the ideas of humanism, in which he was disappointed. The world is cruel and nothing in it can save a person, not even art.
Loneliness and despair
The painting “Mourning of Christ” (Gallery del Academy, Venice), painted around 1576, was the last creation of the master. In it, Titian reflected the question tormenting him: what is there, beyond the limits of life? Two huge sculptures are depicted on both sides of the canvas: the prophet Moses and the prophetess Sibyl, they personify the prophecy of the crucifixion and the subsequent Resurrection of Christ. At the top of the arch on the left side are the branches and leaves of the plant, at the top on the right are small vessels with a blazing fire. In the center of the composition, the Mother of God supports the lifeless body of her murdered Son. To the left of Christ stands Mary Magdalene, her pose is warlike, she as if asks: "What is this for?!" To the right of the virgin Mary, an old man is standing on his knees, supporting the lifeless hand of Jesus. Some believe that the figure of the elder also depicts Titian himself.The general coloring of the canvas is sustained in silver tones with separate intersperses of red, brown and gold. The colors and arrangement of the figures perfectly convey the hopelessness and dramatic nature of the plot. There is a mystery here. In the lower left corner of the work there is a little man with a vase in his hands, art critics are still wondering where he came from and what he was supposed to symbolize.
Meanwhile, a plague raged in Venice, which infected the youngest son of Titian Orazio. The artist himself courted him, not fearing the contagiousness of the disease. But once, in the last days of August, the painter, being in his bedroom locat
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