TITIAN c1487 -
xxxxxThe Italian artist Titian was one of the most outstanding and influential painters of the High Renaissance and the greatest of the Venetian school. He gained particular fame for his vast number of religious and mythological works, but he was also a talented portrait painter, and served in the courts of both the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and his son Philip II of Spain. As a result, his services were in constant demand, be it for portraiture, biblical themes or “poetical compositions”, as he called his mythological scenes.
xxxxxHe worked in Bologna for the Emperor and Pope Clement VII; in Rome for Pope Paul III (where he is likely to have met Michelangelo); and in Augsburg for Philip II, his principal patron, but he produced most of his work in Venice, the city just south of his birthplace, Pieve di Cadore in the Venetian Alps. As a young man he worked alongside Giorgione in the workshop of Giovanni Bellini, and it is likely that when Giorgione died in 1510, he completed some of his work, including his Sleeping Venus, where the reclining nude figure, itself a study in beauty, is clearly used as a model for his delightful and refined Venus of Urbino, (illustrated) produced in 1538. Such sensuous female nudes, the influence of his master Bellini, are to be found in many of his mythological works and are perhaps seen at their best in paintings of a later period.
xxxxxIt was from Giorgione, however, that Titian adopted his idyllic style. And it was from him that he learnt much about the enhancement of colour and brush technique, skills that he developed further over his long career. The incredible depth and richness of his colours were achieved by the application of a number of glazes of transparent colour over a solid foundation, and this sumptuous colouring, together with harmony of composition and the atmospheric use of light, produced work of rare and, in some respects, unique talent. To the traditional High Renaissance style current in Rome and Florence, Titian added the hallmarks of Venetian art: vibrant colour, an interest in texture, and freer brushwork.
xxxxxHis early works included those with a religious theme, the beguiling Salome (illustrated) and frescoes depicting The Three Miracles of St. Anthony of Padua, and those based on mythology, like Flora, Sacred and Profane Love, and the Three Ages of Man. Such were their quality and appeal that by 1518 he was fast gaining an international reputation. One of his great religious works at this time was his mighty The Assumption of the Virgin for the high altar in the Church of Santa Maria dei Frari in Venice. It was conceived on a monumental scale. Bathed in a golden light and virtually pulsating with movement and vibrant colours, it caused a sensation when it was unveiled in 1518. In his Pesaro Madonna, completed in 1526, Titian takes the unusual step of placing the Virgin to one side of the canvas and providing a background of towering columns, a device which came to be associated with the Baroque style. Other religious themes produced in his earlier years were the tragic Entombment, Madonna and Child with the Saints John the Baptist and Catherine of Alexandria (in the National Gallery, London), and Christ Before Pilate completed in 1543.
xxxxxAmong his “poetic
xxxxxMany works testify to his
skill as a portrait painter.
He portrayed a number of leading Italian aristocrats, some in
gleaming armour to enhance their status, and the Emperor Charles V
sat for his portrait on at least three occasions. And from this
period are two of his finest family pieces, the Vendramin
Family (in the National Gallery, London) and Pope
Paul III and his Grandsons (illustrated). The first,
brilliantly executed, shows the two elders of the family kneeling
before an altar together with their seven sons, all in natural pose;
whilst the second, by its composition alone, cleverly captures the
feud simmering below the surface within the Farnese family. Also
worthy of note are his early works, Gentleman in
Blue (also known as Ariosto and
in the National Gallery, London), the so-
xxxxxTitian was painting for nearly two decades after the reign of Henry VIII and, as we shall see (1554 M1), some of his finest work belongs to these later years.
xxxxxTitian was one of the
outstanding painters of the High Renaissance and the greatest of the
Venetian school. He is famous for his religious and mythological
works, but he was also a talented portrait artist. He worked for the
popes Clement VII and Paul III, and served in the courts of Charles
V and his son Philip II,
his principal patron. As a young man he worked alongside Giorgione
in the workshop of Giovanni Bellini.
His paintings are noted for their rich, vibrant colours, interest in
texture, freer brushwork, and harmony of composition. His greatest
religious works include his mighty The Assumption
of the Virgin for the church of Santa Maria dei Frari in
Venice, and his Christ Before Pilate,
completed in 1543. Outstanding among his mythological studies -
xxxxxAs one might imagine,
Titian's brilliant use of colour and his pioneer work in composition
was to greatly influence future artists, even to the point of
virtual imitation at times, but his work also had an impact on
contemporary painters such as the talented Paduan Correggio
xxxxxCorreggio, the assumed name
of Antonio Allegri, studied at Mantua for a short time under the
Paduan Andrea Mantegna, and spent most of his life between Parma and
his native town of Correggio (from whence his name). Whilst at Parma
he gained an enviable reputation for his achievement in the skill of
perspective. Having been greatly impressed by Mantegna’s “ceiling
illusion” in the bridal chamber of the ducal palace at Mantua -
xxxxxThe Paduan artist Correggio (c1494-
xxxxxIllustrated here are Ecce Homo, Deposition from the Cross, and details from Assumption of the Virgin and Holy Night.
xxxxxA probable pupil of
Correggio was the Italian painter and etcher Francesco
xxxxxAmong Correggio’s pupils was probably the painter and etcher Francesco Parmigianino. He was born in Parma in 1503 (from whence he took his name) and, like his master, spent his early years in his hometown where he worked for a time in the cathedral, decorating the southern transept in 1522. The following year he went to Rome in the hope of working for the pope, Clement VII and, so the story goes, was busy painting his Vision of St. Jerome (now in the National Gallery, London), when imperial troops burst into his studio during their sacking of the city in 1527. He managed to escape, and spent some time in Bologna before returning to Parma in 1531. Here he was imprisoned for a while for breach of contract and, on his release, fled to Casal Maggiore where he died in 1540.
xxxxxHe painted mainly religious
subjects and portraits, and his style marks him out as one of the
creators and leading exponents of Mannerism. He tended to elongate
his figures, exaggerating their height and slenderness (as El Greco
and others were later to do), a well-
xxxxxParmigianino openly adopted
sensuous style, but he
was also much influenced by the work of the Roman painter Raphael.
Among his principal works are Cupid Sharpening
his Bow, and two paintings produced while at Bologna, Madonna and Child with St. Margaret
and Other Saints and his own version of The
Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine, noted for its tight
rhythmic design. He also earned a reputation as a fine portrait
painter. Both the Italian navigators, Christopher Columbus and
Amerigo Vespucci, sat for him, and in 1524 he painted an intriguing
xxxxxAs a painter in oil, his richness in colour and texture can be seen at its best in such altarpieces as his night scene Adoration of the Shepherds, and his Madonna of St. Jerome. His charming devotional works include The Madonna of the Basket, The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine, and his Nativity, a work which appears to be illuminated by a divine light (illustrated left above). Amongst his mythological themes are Jupiter and lo, Danae, Leda and the Swan (illustrated right above), The Rape of Ganymede, and Mercury instructing Cupid, all enhanced by their softness of line, and all notable for their sensuous nude figures, some of them bordering on the erotic.
Titian: Venus of
Urbino – Uffizi Gallery, Florence; Salome with head of John the
Baptist – Koelliker Collection, Milan; Paul III and his Grandsons
– Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples; Correggio:
Nativity – Brera Art Gallery, Milan; Leda and Swan – Staatliche
Museum, Berlin; Ecce Homo – National Gallery, London; Deposition
from the Cross -