T is for Titian


Tiziano Vecellio, born circa 1488, one of the most revolutionary painters of the Renaissance, is usually referred to as Titian. Regarded as the most important artist of the Venetian School, he brought realism to a new level, and devised new ways of applying paint, pioneering oils on canvas. He influenced his contemporaries as well as generations of painters. (His voluptuous female forms preceded Rubens’.)

Noted for the way he used color and light, Titian was a master of portraiture. Here is a self-portrait:Titian self-portrait


Titian often painted himself as an onlooker within his compositions. His subjects were often scenes from biblical stories or mythology.


Christ, from a fragment of a larger work

Salome with head of St John the Baptist

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist


Danaë with Eros

He is reputed to have used courtesan as models.

Unlike most artists of his day (and most contemporary artists), Titian achieved widespread popularity and financial success solvency his lifetime. He had steady commissions from churches and wealthy patrons, and earned lifelong pensions.


Assunta (Assumption of the Virgin), an altarpiece. See how the red robes draw the viewer’s eyes all around the three levels of the painting?


This video provides a good overview of Titian’s work:

Sister Wendy puts Titian in context with two other important contemporaries:

The next video explores Titian’s Diana and Calisto in depth:

Titian’s process, as revealed by x-ray:


Two guys from Sotheby’s discuss the cleaning of Madonna and Child with Saints Luke and Catherine of Alexandria:


If you would like to learn more about Titian, I recommend this documentary:


Titian’s works later in life were darker in color and subject. He died in 1576, a victim of the plague epidemic that afflicted Europe. His date of birth is disputed, and some argue he may have been as old as 100 years when he died.

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