Cornaro crest




Titian [Tiziano Vecellio]




Born: c. 1485, Pieve di Cadore

Died: 27 August 1576, Venice

Self-portrait

Tiziano Vecellio, known as TITIAN, is generally regarded as the leading painter of the Venetian school. As noted by Umberto Fortis in The Uffizi: A Guide to the Gallery (Venice: Edizione Storti, 1980, p. 85), "[T]he classicism of the Veneto did not find its fundamental expressive force in the use of line to create its images, but in the development of tonal painting, creating noble forms of a solemn plasticity to attain, with Titian, an ideal of ample, monumental beauty, yet anchored firmly in earthly reality."

Born in a small village in the Dolomite range of the Alps near Belluno, Titian removed to Venice where he worked first with the mosaicist Sebastiano Zuccato, then in the studio of Gentile and Giovanni Bellini. Titian was significantly influenced by Giorgione, whom he assisted in executing the external fresco decoration of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi on the Grand Canal in Venice. Upon Giorgione's death, 1510, Titian completed several of Giorgione's works-in-progress.

Titian's career escalated rapidly after he received a commission, 1511, to execute three frescoes for the Scuola del Santo in Padua. By 1513 he had begun painting a Battle for the Chamber of the Grand Council [Maggior Consiglio] in the Doge's Palace in Venice. Upon the death of Giovanni Bellini, 1516, Titian became official painter to the Republic.

Some of Titian's most acclaimed works of the ensuing ten years were the Assumption for the Church of S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (1518) (in which the soaring movement of the Virgin is said to anticipate the later Baroque period), three paintings for Alfonso d'Este in Ferrara (the Worship of Venus, the Bacchanal and Bacchus and Ariadne) (1518-23), an altarpiece in Ancona (1520), a polyptych in Brescia centered on a Resurrection of Christ (1520-2), and the altarpiece for the Pesaro family side altar in the Church of S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (1519-26).

Later Titian's work became more heavily weighted toward portraiture. Young Giorgio Cornaro (H-4) was one of his subjects in a 1538 painting. Among other prominent subjects were Pope Paul III (1546) and Charles V (1548), Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The Emperor appointed Titian court painter and gave him the rank of Count Palatine and Knight of the Golden Spur.

In the 1540s Titian's work became more heavily influenced by the Mannerism of central and north Italy. He travelled to Rome in 1545-6 for his only visit there. In 1550 he was in Augsburg to paint portraits of Emperor Charles V's son, who was to become Phillip II of Spain and an important later patron of Titian. A detail from his 1567-8 self-portrait, now at the Prado, Madrid, is shown above.

Titian remained active until his death in Venice at about age 91. His last work was a Pieta' (now in the Accademia Museum in Venice) created for his own tomb and completed after his death by Palma il Giovane.


1997-9 C. I. Gable