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 Tiziano (Vecelli/Vecellio) Titian  (c.1487 - 1577)

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Lived/Active: Italy      Known for: religious and portrait painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

The greatest of Venetian painters, born at Pieve di Cadore (Fruili); died at Vencie, August 27, 1577.  It has always been believed that at the time of his death he was a centenarian, and he himself wrote to Philip II in 1571 that he was more than ninety-five, which would make 1477 the year of his birth.  But there are good reasons for believing that he made himself out to be older than he was and that he was born about 1487, that is ten years later than the generally accepted date.  Vasari makes him seventy-seven in 1566.  Titian would therefore have died when he was between 85 and 90 years old, which would render more credible the marvellous freshness of his later works (cf.Herbert Cook, in the "Nineteenth Century", Jan., 1902, and "Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft", XXV).

The vigorous health which the artist inherited from his mountain race together with a habit of order, balance, and labour determined the predominant characteristic of his art.  No painter better expressed, if not the highest beauty, at least that kind of beauty which springs from the deep joy of life, adorning it with an impression of calm, harmony, and serenity.  The first Venetian School had already proved itself capable of expressing these sentiments.  Titian was to give them a still freer and fuller expression with an external charm and a magic of colouring which has sometimes raised the question whether he is not the greatest and most complete of all painters.

At the age of ten Titian was brought to Venice and placed by his brother with the celebrated mosaicist, Sebastian Zuccato, but at the end of four or five years he entered the studio of the aged painter Giovanni Bellini, at that time the most noted artist in the city.  There he found a group of young men about his own age, among them Giovanni Palma da Serinalta, Lorenzo Lotto, and Sebastiano Luciani, who were all to become renowned.  The foremost of these innovators and their master was Giorgio da Castelfranco, nicknamed Giorgione.  With him Titian formed a friendship of which all his early works bore traces, so much so that at this period it is difficult to distinguish the young master ofCadore from him of Castelfranco.

The earliest know work of Titian, the little Ecce Homo of the Scuola di San Rocco, was long regarded as the work of Giorgione.  And the same confusion or uncertainty is connected with more than one of the "Sacred Conversations", in which several holy persons (generally three or four) appear at half length in sweet and familiar association with the Blessed Virgin.  The two young masters were likewise recognized as the two leaders of their new school of Arte moderna, that is of painting made more flexible, freed from symmetry and the remnants of hieratic conventions still to be found in the works of Giovanni Bellini.  Together they executed in 1508 the frescoes of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which have unfortunately disappeared and which were to Venice what the cartoons of Leonardo and Michelangelo at the Signiory were to the Florentine School.  That of Giorgione and Titian is known to us in part through the engraving of Fontana.

An idea of Titian's talent in fresco may be gained from those he painted, in 1511, at Padua in the Carmelite church and in the Scuola del Santo, some of which have been preserved, among them the Meeting at the Golden Gate, and three scenes from the life of St. Anthony of Padua, the Murder of a Young Woman by Her Husband, A Child Testifying to Its Mother's Innocence, and The Saint Healing the Young Man with a Broken Limb. The arrangement and feeling are not the chief merits of these last-named works, but the beauty of the types, the grace of the female figures, the charm of the landscapes, and particularly the enchantment of the colouring must forever rank these frescoes with the most valuable works of Titian's youth.

Catholic Encyclopedia

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