Titian and the End of the Venetian Renaissance
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Titian is best known for paintings that embodied the tradition of the Venetian Renaissance—but how Venetian was the artist himself? In this study, Tom Nichols probes the tensions between the individualism of Titian’s work and the conservative mores of the city, showing how his art undermined the traditional self-suppressing approach to painting in Venice and reflected his engagement with the individualistic cultures emerging in the courts of early modern Europe.
Ranging widely across Titian’s long career and varied works, Titian and the End of the Venetian Renaissance outlines his radical innovations to the traditional Venetian altarpiece; his transformation of portraits into artistic creations; and his meteoric breakout from the confines of artistic culture in Venice. Nichols explores how Titian challenged the city’s communal values with his competitive professional identity, contending that his intensely personalized way of painting resulted in a departure that effectively brought an end to the Renaissance tradition of painting. Packed with 170 illustrations, this groundbreaking book will change the way people look at Titian and Venetian art history.
actions over the containing frame of environment or cultural context.32 In the Miracle of the Jealous Husband, this conception is taken to a new level, such that the landscape appears as an outward expression of the dramatic action, the dangerous and precipitous verticality of the rocky outcrop rising behind the murderous husband reﬂecting his shape and lending emphasis to his violent action (illus. 16). In the more contingent or adventitious world Titian introduces, the immediate action is not
moving decisively beyond the comforting communal framework that had subjected individual agency to the progression or completion of the story. Of course, we do not doubt that contrition will produce the requisite miracle, or that the husband’s wife will be returned. Yet the new drama of Titian’s narrative painting is dependent precisely on the visual displacement of that happy conclusion.33 Titian’s Jealous Husband is the most innovative among the frescos, perhaps encouraged by the restrictions
portraits, it may not be too much of an exaggeration to say that their success in this genre was a by-product of Titian’s own activity and example. The new kind of portrait Vasari noted had been pioneered by Titian’s master Giovanni Bellini in the late decades of the ﬁfteenth century. Taking his lead from the Flemish-inspired Sicilian painter Antonello da Messina, who visited Venice in 1475–6, Bellini devel- oped a more person-speciﬁc kind of portraiture, though it is also true that he used it
indications of intense local colouration that had previously shimmered across the surface are suppressed by carefully balanced tonal modulations of black and white. Sensuous sartorial display gives way to more focussed concentration on the sitters’ heads, the luxury of the dress certainly still suggested but now semi-concealed by shadow. This change must owe something to fashion. Titian’s studied downplaying of clothing in these works emphasizes a sense of understated elegance and richness, the
the many artists who have tried to imitate Titian and show themselves practised masters.’ Shortly afterwards, Vasari returned to the theme, noting Titian’s more general lack of willingness to teach, and contrasting this with the particular ability of earlier Venetian masters to pass on artistic knowledge to pupils.107 Ridolﬁ, who was certainly more sympathetic to Titian, nonetheless noted the old master’s habit of locking away his best paintings in a small room in Biri Grande when he was away so