Tiziano Vecelli, Titian (c.1488 - 1576) MP

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Nicknames: "Titian", "The Sun Amidst Small Stars"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Pieve di Cadore, Veneto, Italy
Death: Died in Venice, Veneto, Italy
Occupation: Italian Rennaisance painter
Managed by: Yigal Burstein / יגאל בורשטיין
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About Tiziano Vecelli, Titian

Titian

Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian (play /ˈtɪʃən/) was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near Belluno (in Veneto), in the Republic of Venice. During his lifetime he was often called da Cadore, taken from the place of his birth.

Recognized by his contemporaries as "The Sun Amidst Small Stars" (recalling the famous final line of Dante's Paradiso), Titian was one of the most versatile of Italian painters, equally adept with portraits, landscape backgrounds, and mythological and religious subjects. His painting methods, particularly in the application and use of color, would exercise a profound influence not only on painters of the Italian Renaissance, but on future generations of Western art.

During the course of his long life, Titian's artistic manner changed drastically but he retained a lifelong interest in color. Although his mature works may not contain the vivid, luminous tints of his early pieces, their loose brushwork and subtlety of polychromatic modulations are without precedent in the history of Western art.

Biography

Early years

No one is sure of the exact date of Titian's birth; when he was an old man he claimed in a letter to Philip II to have been born in 1474, but this seems most unlikely. Other writers contemporary to his old age give figures which would equate to birthdates between 1473 to after 1482, but most modern scholars believe a date nearer 1490 is more likely; the Metropolitan Museum of Art's timeline supports c.1488, as does the Getty Research Institute. He was the eldest son of Gregorio Vecelli and his wife Lucia. His father was superintendent of the castle of Pieve di Cadore and managed local mines for their owners. Gregorio was also a distinguished councilor and soldier. Many relatives, including Titian's grandfather, were notaries, and the family of four were well-established in the area, which was ruled by Venice. This early portrait (c. 1512) was long wrongly believed to be of Ariosto; it is more likely a self-portrait, and the composition was borrowed by Rembrandt for his own self-portraits.

At the age of about ten to twelve he and his brother Francesco (who perhaps followed later) were sent to an uncle in Venice to find an apprenticeship with a painter. The minor painter, Sebastian Zuccato, whose sons became well-known mosaicists, and who may have been a family friend, arranged for the brothers to enter the studio of the elderly Gentile Bellini, from where they later transferred to that of his brother Giovanni Bellini. At that time the Bellinis, especially Giovanni, were the leading artists in the city. There he found a group of young men about his own age, among them Giovanni Palma da Serinalta, Lorenzo Lotto, Sebastiano Luciani, and Giorgio da Castelfranco, nicknamed Giorgione. Francesco Vecellio, his older brother, later became a painter of some note in Venice.

A fresco of Hercules on the Morosini Palace is said to have been one of his earliest works; others were the Bellini-esque so-called Gypsy Madonna in Vienna, and the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth (from the convent of S. Andrea), now in the Accademia, Venice.

Titian joined Giorgione as an assistant, but many contemporary critics already found his work more impressive, for example in the exterior frescoes (now almost totally destroyed) that they did for the Fondaco dei Tedeschi (state-warehouse for the German merchants), and their relationship evidently had a significant element of rivalry. Distinguishing between their work at this period remains a subject of scholarly controversy, and there has been a substantial movement of attributions from Giorgione to Titian in the 20th century, with little traffic the other way. One of the earliest known works of Titian, Cristo portacroce in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, depicting the Ecce Homo scene, was long regarded as the work of Giorgione.

The two young masters were likewise recognized as the two leaders of their new school of arte moderna, which is characterized by paintings made more flexible, freed from symmetry and the remnants of hieratic conventions still to be found in the works of Giovanni Bellini. Salome, or Judith; this religious work also functions as an idealized portrait of a beauty, a genre developed by Titian, supposedly often using Venetian courtesans as models.

In 1507–1508 Giorgione was commissioned by the state to create frescoes on the re-erected Fondaco dei Tedeschi. Titian and Morto da Feltre worked along with him, and some fragments of paintings remain, probably by Giorgione. Some of their work is known, in part, through the engravings of Fontana. After Giorgione's early death in 1510, Titian continued to paint Giorgionesque subjects for some time, though his style developed its own features, including bold and expressive brushwork.

Titian's talent in fresco is shown in those he painted in 1511 at Padua in the Carmelite church and in the Scuola del Santo, some of which have been preserved.

From Padua in 1512, Titian returned to Venice; and in 1513 he obtained a broker's patent, termed La Sanseria or Senseria (a privilege much coveted by rising or risen artists), in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi and became superintendent of the government works, being especially charged to complete the paintings left unfinished by Giovanni Bellini in the hall of the great council in the ducal palace.

Growth

During this period (1516–1530), which may be called the period of his mastery and maturity, the artist moved on from his early Giorgionesque style, undertook larger and more complex subjects and for the first time attempted a monumental style. Giorgione died in 1510 and Giovanni Bellini in 1516, leaving Titian unrivaled in the Venetian School. For sixty years he was to be the undisputed master of Venetian painting. In 1516 he completed for the high altar of the church of the Frari, his famous masterpiece, the Assumption of the Virgin, still in situ. This extraordinary piece of colorism, executed on a grand scale rarely before seen in Italy, created a sensation. It took Titian two years (1516–1518) to complete the oil painting Assunta, whose dynamic three-tier composition and color scheme established him as the preeminent painter north of Rome. The Signoria took note, and observed that Titian was neglecting his work in the hall of the great council, but in 1516 he succeeded his master Giovanni Bellini in receiving a pension from the Senate.

The pictorial structure of the Assumption—that of uniting in the same composition two or three scenes superimposed on different levels, earth and heaven, the temporal and the infinite — was continued in a series of works such as the retable of San Domenico at Ancona (1520), the retable of Brescia (1522), and the retable of San Niccolò (1523), in the Vatican Museum), each time attaining to a higher and more perfect conception, finally reaching a classic formula in the Pesaro Madonna, (better known as the Madonna di Ca' Pesaro) (c. 1519–1526), also for the Frari church. This perhaps is his most studied work, whose patiently developed plan is set forth with supreme display of order and freedom, originality and style. Here Titian gave a new conception of the traditional groups of donors and holy persons moving in aerial space, the plans and different degrees set in an architectural framework.

The artist simultaneously continued his series of small Madonnas which he treated amid beautiful landscapes in the manner of genre pictures or poetic pastorals, the Virgin with the Rabbit in the Louvre being the finished type of these pictures. Another work of the same period, also in the Louvre, is the Entombment. This was also the period of the three large and famous mythological scenes for the camerino of Alfonso d'Este in Ferrara, The Andrians and the Worship of Venus in the Prado, and the Bacchus and Ariadne (1520–23) in London, "...perhaps the most brilliant productions of the neo-pagan culture or "Alexandrianism" of the Renaissance, many times imitated but never surpassed even by Rubens himself." Titian's state portrait of Emperor Charles V (1548) at Mühlberg established a new genre, that of the grand equestrian portrait. The composition is steeped both in the Roman tradition of equestrian sculpture and in the medieval representations of an ideal Christian knight, but the weary figure and face have a subtlety few such representations attempt.

In 1525 he married a lady named Cecilia, thereby legitimizing their first child, Pomponio, and two others followed, including Titian's favorite, Orazio, who became his assistant. About 1526 he became acquainted, and soon exceedingly intimate, with Pietro Aretino, the influential and audacious figure who features so strangely in the chronicles of the time. Titian sent a portrait of him to Gonzaga, duke of Mantua.

In August 1530 his wife died giving birth to a daughter, Lavinia, and with his three children he moved house, and convinced his sister Orsa to come from Cadore and take charge of the household. The mansion, difficult to find now, is in the Bin Grande, then a fashionable suburb, at the extreme end of Venice, on the sea, with beautiful gardens and a view towards Murano.

Maturity

During the next period (1530–1550), Titian developed the style introduced by his dramatic Death of St. Peter Martyr. The Venetian government, dissatisfied with Titian's neglect of the work for the ducal palace, ordered him in 1538 to refund the money which he had received, and Pordenone, his rival of recent years, was installed in his place. However, at the end of a year Pordenone died, and Titian, who meanwhile applied himself diligently to painting in the hall the Battle of Cadore, was reinstated. This major battle scene was lost along with so many other major works by Venetian artists by the great fire which destroyed all the old pictures in the great chambers of the Doge's Palace in 1577. It represented in life-size the moment at which the Venetian general, D'Alviano attacked the enemy with horses and men crashing down into a stream, and was the artist's most important attempt at a tumultuous and heroic scene of movement to rival Raphael's Battle of Constantine and the equally ill-fated Battle of Cascina of Michelangelo and The Battle of Anghiari of Leonardo (both unfinished). There remains only a poor, incomplete copy at the Uffizi, and a mediocre engraving by Fontana. The Speech of the Marquis del Vasto (Madrid, 1541) was also partly destroyed by fire. But this period of the master's work is still represented by the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin (Venice, 1539), one of his most popular canvasses, and by the Ecce Homo (Vienna, 1541). Despite its loss, the painting had a great influence on Bolognese art and Rubens, both in the handling of details and the general effect of horses, soldiers, lictors, powerful stirrings of crowds at the foot of a stairway, lit by torches with the flapping of banners against the sky. Titian's unmatched handling of color is exemplified by his Danaë with Nursemaid, one of several mythological paintings, or "poesie" ("poems") as the painter called them, done for Philip II of Spain. Although Michelangelo adjudged this piece deficient from the point of view of drawing, Titian and his studio produced several versions for other patrons.

At this time also, the time of his visit to Rome, the artist began his series of reclining Venuses The Venus of Urbino of the Uffizi, Venus and Love at the same museum, Venus and the Organ-Player, Madrid), in which is recognized the effect or the direct reflection of the impression produced on the master by contact with ancient sculpture. Giorgione had already dealt with the subject in his Dresden picture, finished by Titian, but here a purple drapery substituted for a landscape background changed, by its harmonious coloring, the whole meaning of the scene.

Titian had from the beginning of his career shown himself to be a masterful portrait-painter, in works like La Bella (Eleanora de Gonzaga, Duchess of Urbino, at the Pitti Palace). He painted the likenesses of princes, or Doges, cardinals or monks, and artists or writers. "...no other painter was so successful in extracting from each physiognomy so many traits at once characteristic and beautiful", according to The Catholic Encyclopedia. Among portrait-painters Titian is compared to Rembrandt and Velázquez, with the interior life of the former, and the clearness, certainty, and obviousness of the latter.

In 1532 after painting a portrait of the emperor Charles V in Bologna he was made a Count Palatine and knight of the Golden Spur. His children were also made nobles of the Empire, which for a painter was an exceptional honor.

As a matter of professional and worldly success his position from about this time is regarded as equal only to that of Raphael, Michelangelo, and at a later date Rubens. In 1540 he received a pension from D'Avalos, marquis del Vasto, and an annuity of 200 crowns (which was afterwards doubled) from Charles V from the treasury of Milan.

He visited Rome in 1546, and obtained the freedom of the city—his immediate predecessor in that honor having been Michelangelo in 1537. He could at the same time have succeeded the painter Sebastiano del Piombo in his lucrative office as holder of the piombo or Papal seal, and he was prepared to take holy orders for the purpose; but the project lapsed through his being summoned away from Venice in 1547 to paint Charles V and others in Augsburg. He was there again in 1550, and executed the portrait of Philip II which was sent to England and proved useful in Philip's suit for the hand of Queen Mary.

Final years

During the last twenty-six years of his life (1550–1576) the artist worked mainly for Philip II and as a portrait-painter. He became more self-critical, an insatiable perfectionist, keeping some pictures in his studio for ten years, never wearying of returning to them and retouching them, constantly adding new expressions at once more refined, concise, and subtle. He also finished off many copies of earlier works of his by his pupils, giving rise to many problems of attribution and priority among versions of his works, which were also very widely copied and faked outside his studio, during his lifetime and afterwards.

For Philip II he painted a series of large mythological paintings known as the "poesie", mostly from Ovid, which are regarded as among his greatest works. Thanks to the prudishness of Philip's successors, these were later mostly given as gifts and only two remain in the Prado. Titian was producing religious works for Philip at the same time. The "poesie" series began with Venus and Adonis, of which the original is in the Prado, but several versions exist, and Danaë, both sent to Philip in 1553. Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto, were despatched in 1559, then Perseus and Andromeda (Wallace Collection, now damaged) and the Rape of Europa (Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), delivered in 1562. The Death of Actaeon was begun in 1559 but worked on for many years, and never completed or delivered.

For each of the problems which he successively undertook he furnished a new and more perfect formula. He never again equaled the emotion and tragedy of the The Crowning with Thorns (Louvre), in the expression of the mysterious and the divine he never equaled the poetry of the Pilgrims of Emmaus, while in superb and heroic brilliancy he never again executed anything more grand than The Doge Grimani adoring Faith (Venice, Doge's Palace), or the Trinity, of Madrid.

Titian had engaged his daughter Lavinia, the beautiful girl whom he loved deeply and painted various times, to Cornelio Sarcinelli of Serravalle. She had succeeded her aunt Orsa, then deceased, as the manager of the household, which, with the lordly income that Titian made by this time, placed her on a corresponding footing. The marriage took place in 1554. She died in childbirth in 1560.

In September 1565 Titian went to Cadore and designed the decorations for the church at Pieve, partly executed by his pupils. One of these is a Transfiguration, another an Annunciation (now in S. Salvatore, Venice), inscribed Titianus fecit, by way of protest (it is said) against the disparagement of some persons who cavilled at the veteran's failing handicraft.

He continued to accept commissions to the end of his life. He had selected as the place for his burial the chapel of the Crucifix in the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, the church of the Franciscan Order; in return for a grave, he offered the Franciscans a picture of the Pietà, representing himself and his son Orazio before the Savior, another figure in the composition being a sibyl. This work he nearly finished, but some differences arose regarding it, and he then settled to be interred in his native Pieve.

Titian was (depending on his unknown birthdate—see above) probably in his late eighties when the plague raging in Venice took him on 27 August 1576. He was the only victim of the Venice plague to be given a church burial. He was interred in the Frari (Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari), as at first intended, and his Pietà was finished by Palma the Younger. He lies near his own famous painting, the Madonna di Ca' Pesaro. No memorial marked his grave, until much later the Austrian rulers of Venice commissioned Canova to provide the large monument.

Immediately after Titian's own death, his son and assistant Orazio died of the same epidemic. His sumptuous mansion was plundered during the plague by thieves.

Printmaking

Titian himself never attempted engraving, but he was very conscious of the importance of printmaking as a means of further expanding his reputation. In the period 1517–1520 he designed a number of woodcuts, including an enormous and impressive one of The Crossing of the Red Sea, and collaborated with Domenico Campagnola and others, who produced further prints based on his paintings and drawings. Much later he provided drawings based on his paintings to Cornelius Cort from the Netherlands who engraved them. Martino Rota followed Cort from about 1558 to 1568.

Family

Several other artists of the Vecelli family followed in the wake of Titian. Francesco Vecellio, his elder brother, was introduced to painting by Titian (it is said at the age of twelve, but chronology will hardly admit of this), and painted in the church of S. Vito in Cadore a picture of the titular saint armed. This was a noteworthy performance, of which Titian (the usual story) became jealous; so Francesco was diverted from painting to soldiering, and afterwards to mercantile life.

Marco Vecellio, called Marco di Tiziano, Titian's nephew, born in 1545, was constantly with the master in his old age, and learned his methods of work. He has left some able productions in the ducal palace, the Meeting of Charles V. and Clement VII. in 1529 ; in S. Giacomo di Rialto, an Annunciation ; in SS. Giovani e Paolo, Christ Fulminant. A son of Marco, named Tiziano (or Tizianello), painted early in the 17th century.

The painting The Allegory of Age Governed by Prudence (c. 1565–1570) is thought to depict Titian, his son Orazio, and a young cousin, Marco Vecellio.

From a different branch of the family came Fabrizio di Ettore, a painter who died in 1580. His brother Cesare, who also left some pictures, is well known by his book of engraved costumes, Abiti antichi e moderni. Tommaso Vecelli, also a painter, died in 1620. There was another relative, Girolamo Dante, who, being a scholar and assistant of Titian, was called Girolamo di Tiziano. Various pictures of his were touched up by the master, and are difficult to distinguish from originals.

Few of the pupils and assistants of Titian became well-known in their own right; for some being his assistant was probably a lifetime career. Paris Bordone and Bonifazio Veronese were his assistants during at some point in their careers. Giulio Clovio said Titian employed El Greco (or Dominikos Theotokopoulos) in his last years.

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Titian's Timeline

1488
1488
Pieve di Cadore, Veneto, Italy
1524
1524
Age 36
Venice, Veneto, Italy
1528
1528
Age 40
Venice, Veneto, Italy
1530
1530
Age 42
Venezia, Veneto, Italia
1576
August 27, 1576
Age 88
Venice, Veneto, Italy
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