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Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) c. 1488-1576


c. 1488 – Born in village of Cadore at beginning of Dolomite range in a family of notaries. His father was a distinguished town councillor and soldier, superintendent of Cadore castle and manager of local mines.

c. 1498 – Arrives in Venice (according to biographer Lodovico Dolce who met him in 1557) at the age of 10 with older brother Francesco. He first worked with mosaicist Sebastian Zuccato, left him for aging Gentile Bellini and then his brother Giovanni whose modern manner he liked best. Among the young assistants are Giovanni Palma da Serinalta, Lorenzo Lotto and Giorgio da Castelfranco, known as Giorgione.

1508 - Mentioned as Giorgione’s assistant for Fondaco dei Tedeschi (German commercial headquarters) frescos. The two young masters were recognized as the leaders of "arte moderna", painting made more flexible, freed from symmetry and old hieratic conventions still to be found in the works of Giovanni Bellini.

1510 – Death of Giorgione. Titian is now an independent master with successful career.  Invests in lumber in Cadore, proves to be astute businessman.

1511 – First dated works that have survived -  his documented career spans 68 years. Painting frescos in Padua church.

1513 – Back in Venice obtains, an official patent (senseria) that enables him to supervise state commissions and the privelege to complete the great paintings in the Ducal palace left unfinished by Giovanni Bellini. The patent comes with an income of 20 crowns a year and certain tax exemptions. He has the obligation to paint all new doges at 8 crowns a portrait (he will execute 5 Doge portraits altogether.)

1516 – Death of Giovanni Bellini. Titian begins his monumental altarpiece – The Assunta or Assumption of the Virgin – for the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. This work is considered the great precursor to the baroque-style altarpieces of the end of the 16th century. He is now the pre-eminent Venetian painter and obtains a pension from the Venetian senate.

1520-23 – First important aristocratic commissions are the bacchanals painted for Alfonso d’Este duke of Ferrara.

His cousin Fedrigo II Gonzaga, marquis of Mantua, will alter introduce Titian to the Emperor Charles V.

1525 – Marries a lady called Cecilia and recognises an exiting child named Pomponio. A later son Orazio will become his assistant.

1526 – Meets and befriends the most talented writer and sharpest tongue of the age Pietro Aretino.

1530 – Cecilia dies while giving birth to a daughter Lavinia. His sister Orsa comes from Cadore to run his household.

1531 -  Buys palatial house with views over lagoon to Murano and on clear days to Alps.

1533 -  Already rich and famous, summoned to Bologna to meet Charles V the great Hapsburg Emperor whose portrait he paints. Charles V makes him a count and his children hereditary nobles.

1538 – His increasing fame and workload lead him to neglect his official duties at the Ducal palace. He is asked to refund his pensions and is replaced by Porderone. He will nevertheless be re-instated after Porderone’s death the same year and his diligent painting of a battle picture for the council hall. All these great pictures disappeared in the great fire of 1577.

1540 – Obtains annuity of 200 crowns (later doubled) from Spanish crown.

1542 – Obtains lucrative contract to supply grain to his home-town Cadore. Builds a villa outside the town from which he is presumed to have painted many of his country views.

1545-46 - Stays in Rome as guest of Farnese family and is awarded citizenship, a signal honor. Works for Pope Paul III. Meets Michelangelo who praises his realism but finds his drawing skills feeble according to Vasari.

1548 - Twice called to Augsburg court in Germany to paint portraits of Charles V (first major equestrian portrait of 16th century.) and in 1550 of his successor Philip II. According to legend the Emperor himself picks up the master’s brush when he drops it during a studio visit.

1554 – The famous Danaë is commissioned by Philip II of Spain who will become the major patron of the artist’s final years. An insatiable perfectionist, he kept some pictures in his studio for years, never wearying of returning to them and retouching them, constantly adding new layers of paint and glazes (velatura) to tone down color and add greater depth and richness to his tones. He finishes many copies of his own works done by his assistants (a headache of attribution for art historians.) marriage of his favorite child Lavinia who had been running the household since the death of her aunt.

1555 – Recorded as attending great Catholic counter-reformation council in Trent.

1576 – Dies (at 90) of the plague. He was the only Venetian plague victim who was given a proper funeral and buried in the church of the Frari. His son Orazio soon died soon afterwards also of the oplague and his famous mansion was plundered by thieves.

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