Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1485-1576), better known as Titian, was born in Pieve di Cadore, near Belluno (Veneto) , in the Republic of Venice.

He was the leader of the 16th-century Venetian school of the Italian Renaissance. He was probably a pupil of Giovanni Bellini and in his early work he came under the spell of Giorgone.

The work that more than any other established his reputation is the huge altarpiece of The Assumption of the Virgin (Santa Maria dei Frari, Venice, 1516-18). In 1550 he travelled to Augsburg and painted portraits of Charles's son, the future Philip II of Spain, who was to be the greatest patron of his later career.

Titian was recognized as a towering genius in his own time : the painter Gian Paolo Lomazzo (1538-1600) described him as the 'sun amidst small stars not only among the Italians but all the painters of the world'. Titian was approximately 90 years old when the plague raging in Venice took him in August 1576. He was the only victim of the Venice plague to be given a church burial.

Titian painted this scene in 1565-76 that refers to Diana in revenge for being surprised by Actaeon as she bathes naked in the woods, transforms Actaeon into a stag and his own hounds attacks and kills him. Since 1961, this picture -property of the Trustees of the Earl of Harewood- had been lent by the Trustees to the National Gallery. In 1971, the Trustees decided to put it up for sale on auction and when it was known by the public thanks to a scoop of The Times it attracted a tremendous interest and media coverage.

At the sale, the Titian was bought for 1,600,000 Gns ($ 3.84 Million) by the famous art dealer Julius Weitzner (1896-1986) after a bidding war with the Getty Museum. He sold the work ten days later for £ 50,000 more to the J. Paul Getty Museum, although a national fund-raising campaign in England tried to stop the export of the work to the United States. Eventually the Getty Museum consented to ship it back to the National Gallery London that bought it with the help of the NACF (Art Fund), the Pilgrim Trust and a public appeal for £ 1.76 million ($4.2 million).

Titian painted as well the scene of Actaeon seeing Diana bathing, this picture can be seen at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.
It is difficult now to credit that Titian and the Venetian school of painting have not always been universally admired. In the 18th century, when many of the paintings here entered British collections, the cult of Titian was divisive, even political. Aristocrats loved Titian, radicals loathed him. William Blake revered Michelangelo with his bold design and inner vision, and raged that Titian's soft, yielding sensuality was becoming fashionable - so fashionable that a young girl's claim to have discovered the secret of Titian's colouring caused a national sensation in the 1790s. Blake raged at the appetite for Titian's "sickly daubs".

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