- (Tiziano Vecellio; c. 1488-1576)Titian was born in Pieve di Cadore on Venetian territory. He first trained with Giovanni Bellini and later Giorgione, whose Sleeping Venus (c. 1510; Dresden, Gemäldegalerie) and Fête Champetre (c. 1510; Louvre, Paris) are believed by some to have been collaborations with Titian. By c. 1510, Titian became an independent master, catering to some of the most important patrons of the period, including Emperor Charles V, who knighted the artist, and Charles' son, King Philip II of Spain. Titian's Noli me tangere (c. 1510; London, National Gallery) is one of his earliest works and shows the influence of Giorgione, particularly in the lush application of paint, the emphasis on earth tones, olive greens, and deep reds, the sensuous seminude body of Christ, and the pastoral landscape. Titian's Man with Blue Sleeve (c. 1511—1515; London, National Gallery), believed by some to be a self-portrait and by others to represent the poet Ludovico Ariosto, also belongs to his formative years, and yet represents a major innovation in the field of portraiture in that it shows the man in an animated pose with body in profile, head turned, eyes gazing intently at the viewer, and a fore-shortened arm resting on a parapet with elbow jutting into the viewer's space—elements that until then did not figure in the history of portraiture, at least not collectively. Also innovative is the placement of the figure against a dark, undefined background to relegate all focus on his persona.Portraiture became one of Titian's strongest suits. His Young Englishman (c. 1540-1545; Paris, Louvre) and Ranuccio Farnese (1542; Washington, National Gallery) depict two aristocrats, the one unidentified and the other a member of the family of Pope Paul III. Titian also depicted the pope himself in 1543 (Toledo, Cathedral Museum). In these works, the master captured not only the appearance of his sitters but also their character. The Englishman is aloof, his gloves, gold chain, and ring stressing his elevated status; young Ranuccio is a shy, innocent 12-year-old boy; and the pope is a stern, authoritarian figure, his papal ring prominently displayed to assert his position of power. In 1548, Titian spent nine months in Germany working for Charles V. His Charles V on Horseback (1548; Prado, Madrid) follows the precedent of ancient equestrian imperial portraits that equate the ability to ride with that of commanding an army. With this work, Titian established the official portrait type for members of the Spanish court, a format that both Peter Paul Rubens and Diego Velazquez would later adopt.Titian's religious works are just as innovative as his portraits. His Assumption of the Virgin (1516-1518; Venice, Santa Maria dei Frari) was his first public commission and depicts a scene that up to that point had been represented in a rather formulaic manner. Titian injected life into it by conveying the excitement of the apostles as they witness the Virgin Mary's ascent to heaven. Some point up, others hold their hands in prayer, and others still comment to each other on the event. The scene is imbued with a celebratory tone, appropriate as it preambles Mary's coronation as queen of heaven. Titian's Madonna of the Pesaro Family (1519-1526; Venice, Santa Maria dei Frari) follows the format established by Giovanni Bellini of placing the Madonna and Child on an elevated throne flanked by columns and set against a landscape. However, the artist here introduced a new twist. Mary's throne is now at an angle to form a sharp diagonal, granting a sense of dynamism to the work, and the Christ Child is a playful toddler who lifts his mother's veil over his head to play peek-a-boo. Titian's Mary Magdalene (c. 1535; Florence, Palazzo Pitti) is a far cry from Donatello's emaciated figure (1430s-1450s; Florence, Museo dell' Opera del Duomo). Instead, she is a sensuous nude with long, flowing hair that does little to cover her nudity. His Pietà of c. 1576 (Venice, Galleria dell' Accademia; completed by Palma Giovanne) he painted for his own tomb in the Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. While it follows the format established by Michelangelo in his Roman Pietà (1488/1499-1500) with the body of Christ sprawled on his mother's lap, here again Titian composed a more energetic scene. The distressed St. Jerome, a self-portrait, crawls toward Christ to touch his lifeless hand, and Mary Magdalen runs with her right arm elevated as if to announce to the world that the Savior has died.Titian was also a masterful painter of mythological and allegorical scenes. His Sacred and Profane Love (1514; Rome, Galleria Borghese) relates to Giorgione's Fête Champêtre in which the sensuous female nude is placed within a pastoral landscape. The three mythologies he created for Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, to be placed in his Camerino d'Alabastro depict erotic bacchanals (scenes related to Bacchus) set in luscious landscapes. The scenes are based on the ekphrases written by Philostratus, the ancient writer of the third century, of paintings he saw in a villa in Naples. Titian's most famous work of this genre is the Venus of Urbino (1538; Florence, Uffizi), a painting based on Giorgione's Sleeping Venus. His Danaë (1554; Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum), painted for Philip II, also belongs to the reclining nude type established by Giorgione, yet the pose of the figure with bent knees depends also on Michelangelo's Leda and the Swan (destroyed), a work that exerted tremendous influence in the Renaissance.Titian was already recognized as a genius in his own time. The impact of his style and innovations continued beyond his lifetime. The Carracci Reform owes much to his artistic example. Rubens and Velázquez together studied the many works by Titian in the Spanish royal collection and adopted his animated brushwork, luscious colors, golden light, and dynamic arrangement of figures. Pietro da Cortona and Nicolas Poussin were among the artists in Rome to establish the Neo-Venetian style, which was based on the art of Titian. Of the masters of the 16th century, Titian stands out as among the most influential and inventive.See also Pietà, St. Peter's, Rome.
Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. Lilian H. Zirpolo. 2008.