On March, 5 2013 a major retrospective on Titian opens at the Scuderie del Quirinale. Many people consider Tiziano Vecellio (ca. 1488–1576), known in the English language as Titian, the greatest painter of the Venetian School or the greatest of the Venetian painters, however you want to look at it. Already in his life time Titian established his reputation as one of the giants in art. During his long career, he experimented with many different styles of painting.
Titian was quite a productive painter (he painted more than 500 works) and many of his works will be on show in the Scuderie del Quirinale. Among them the Concertand La Bellafrom Palazzo Pitti, Florafrom the Uffizi, the Gozzi Altarpiece from Ancona, Danaë and the Shower of Gold from Capodimonte, Charles V with a Dog and his self-portrait from the Prado. I hope the “Venus of Urbino,” will be on show too, in which he transforms one of Venice’s highest-priced courtesans into the goddess of love, with her faint smile and her hand covering her forbidden fruit. Titian was a master of seduction on canvas and simultaneously in real life too, as the story goes.
Being a Renaissance man, he contributed to all of arts’ major areas. So much so that in the year 1590 Giovanni Lomazzo wrote (in his ‘Idea del Tempio detta pittura’) that Titian was “the sun amidst small stars not only among the Italians, but all the painters of the world”. Titian has always been a painter’s painter, an eloquent master of the brush and a great pictorial story teller, but known above all for his remarkable use of colour. He paints “the very colours of nature herself”, Ludovico Dolce wrote already in 1557. Titian inspired artists like Rubens, Van Dyck, Velázquez, Rembrandt and Turner to name a few.
Visitors to the exhibition will be able to trace Titian’s life and artistic career. Born at Pieve di Cadore (Friuli) around 1490, he was sent as a child of nine years old to Venice to become a pupil of Giovanni Bellini. Not satisfied he moved on to Giorgio da Castel Franco or Giorgione, as he was called back then. They became best friends and influenced each other; making it sometimes difficult to distinguish the work of Titan to the one of Giorgione’s.
Titian’s first major independent commission was for three frescoes about the life of St. Antony of Padua in the Scuola del Santo, Padua (1511). The work that more than any other established his reputation is the huge altarpiece of The Assumption of the Virgin, which took him two years to paint (Santa Maria dei Frari, Venice, 1516-18, now in the Venice Academy of Fine Art). It is the largest picture he ever painted. Initially the church did not accept The Assumption of the Virgin, its style was too innovative, its composition too revolutionary and the colours too bright, especially Titian’s trademark red. In the last three decades of his long career Titian painted numerous portraits. Titian portrayed people in a remarkable way, in their facial expressions one can not only see how life had treated them, yet his composition expressed more, one can see the Renaissance in them.
The ‘Titian’ exhibition created a buzz in the museum world too. Not only will some of the most important Italian museums and institutions work together for the very first time, but ‘Titian’ also showcases a new, state-of-the-art, LED-based illumination system (designed by Targetti ) for the lighting of the works of art, one that allows the observer to make out every minor detail in extraordinary depth. Makes you curious about the effect, doesn’t it? Wonder what the master himself would have said about this LED-based illumination of his art. It would for sure serve as a striking conversation piece.
Tiziano, curated by Giovanni C. F. Villa
Scuderie del Quirinale
5 March – 16 June 2013
Via XXIV Maggio 16
Bus 40-60-64-70-117-170-H, get off at Nazionale/Quirinale
metro A (get off at Piazza della Repubblica)
metro B (get off at Cavour)