Who is the Artist Titian?

One of the leading painters in 16th century Venice, Titian Vecelli is often overlooked, especially in contrast to artists like Michelangelo and Raphael, but his work was an important catalyst for later art forms. 

Tiziano Vecelli, mainly known as Titian, was one of the greatest painters in 16th-century Venice. Titian was a leading artist throughout Europe, becoming famous from an early age. During his long life and career, he was considered one of the most important painters of the Italian Renaissance.

Early Life of Artist Titian

There is no documented evidence of Titan’s birth date, but it is known he was born in a small town in Pieve di Cadore some time during 1490. At just 10 years old Titian started his training in Venice, one of the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan cities in the world. He first started studying mosaics, training under expert Sebastiano Zuccato. He later briefly became apprentice to Gentile Bellini (brother of Giovanni Bellini), an equally well-regarded Italian painter at the time and member of the founding family of the Venetian school of Renaissance painting. Unfortunately, Gentile soon passed away after he started teaching Titian, so the young painter joined the workshop of Gentile’s brother, Giovanni Bellini. Giovanni was one of the most significant painters at the time and had much influence on Titian’s early work. It was through training at Giovanni’s workshop that introduced Titian to Giogione. Little is known about this Venetian artist, but his direct influence on Titian was very great, particularly his use of deeply saturated colours and novel use of landscape to create atmosphere. Their closeness can be seen in the project they share in 1508-9. Together they worked on decorating the external walls of the ‘Fondaco dei Tedeschi’ in Venice. Titan’s sections were particularly praised, which bothered Giovanni. Titian launched his independent career in 1511 after Giovanni’s death in 1510. Titian was left with no one to compete with, propelling his success.

Career of Titian

During his entire career, he experimented in many different styles of painting. This was mainly due to the development of art that changed drastically throughout Titan’s life and the different artistic influences he received during his early training. By 1511 his style had reached maturity, distinguished by fullness of forms, compositional confidence and chromatic balance. He became famous at doing portraits and various profane subjects, drawing the attention of ambitious dukes and aristocrats. For instance, Titian did works for the Pope as well as royal figures. His relationship with the church continued, as seen in his celebrated altarpiece ‘Pala Pesaro’, painted between 1519 and 1526. The asymmetrical composition was successfully received and continued to influence Venetian altarpiece until the 18th century. In his later years however, Titan had a radical revision of style and painting technique. Starting from the late 1550s, Titian adopted a freer use of brush stroke, creating a less descriptive representation of reality.

Private Life and Public Success

The 1520s were a hugely significant time in Titian’s private and public life. In 1525 he married Cecilia, who was only his wife for five years, before she died tragically in 1530. In that time however, they managed to have 3 children, all given the names of famous figures from ancient Rome: Pompeo, Orazio and Lavinia. Following his wife’s death, Titian threw himself back into his work, rapidly becoming the principal painter to the imperial court. He owed much of this to his meeting with Emperor Charles V, who he met in Bologna soon after his wife’s death. Charles V showed much interest in Titian’s early skill of portraits, requesting a life-size portrait of himself. He also became the official painter of Charles’ son, Philip II of Spain. In 1545-6, Titian finally got to meet an equally well-known and prestigious artist – Michelangelo. Being very old at the time, this was the only trip Titian ever made to Rome.

Significant Pieces to see in Rome

There are numerous pieces by Titan that are worth seeing in person. An incredible artwork that dwells in Rome’s borders is the ‘Sacred and Profane Love.’ Titan painted this piece when he was only 25 years old and was commissioned by Nicolò Aurelio to mark his marriage to his wife Laura Bagarotto. It is one of the most noteworthy pieces in Rome’s entire Galleria Borghese. Make sure you take some time out of your holiday in Rome to visit this stunning painting. Other of Titian’s masterpieces reside throughout Italy and beyond, in Venice, Madrid, Rome and London. Because of his contribution to Renaissance art and his influence on the movement, we thought Titian was worth writing about and we hope you now remember his name and seek him out on your next Italian adventure!

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