Titian was an Italian painter and one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance period. Considered as the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school, Titian painted works for King Philip II, Pope Paul III and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Born to a local modest official in Pieve di Cadore, Titian was sent to live with his uncle in Venice at the age of ten. Subsequently, he developed a keen interest in art and learnt the technique of painting and soon earned the opportunity to work with a few great painters of the era. Around 1518, he was deemed as one of Venice's leading artists with the completion of ‘Assumption of the Virgin’. Thereafter, Titian embarked on a prestigious career as a painter, receiving much support in his endeavor by a variety of lofty commissions. Much in demand in the courts of northern Italy around mid-16th century, his reputation spread like wildfire throughout Europe. Recognized as the "first painter" by Emperor Charles V and raised by him to the rank of Count Palatine, he painted astonishing mythology-inspired artwork and also created portraits of some of the leading personalities of the day during his lifetime. Retaining a lifelong interest in color, he continued to project amazing energy through his paintings until his death. Most celebrated for his mastery of color, creative works of Titian had a profound influence on countless future generations of artists.
- Titian was born Tiziano Vecellio sometime between 1488 and 1490, in Pieve di Cadore, near Belluno in Italy, to Gregorio Vecellio, and his wife, Lucia. He was the oldest of the four siblings.
- After spending his early years in Pieve di Cadore, he was sent to live with his uncle in Venice at the age of ten. While in Venice, he developed an interest towards paintings and decided to become an artist.
- Afterwards, he became an apprentice of Sebastiano Zuccato, a Venetian artist. Then, he got the opportunity to work with some of the leading artists of the era such as Giovanni Bellini and later the Giorgione, who proved to be quite influential to the young painter.
- After assisting Giorgione on several assignments, Titian obtained his first major independent commission of the three large frescoes in the Confraternity of St. Anthony in Padua. Some of his early works included ‘the Meeting at the Golden Gate’ and ‘the Miracle of Jealous Husband’.
- Some of Titian’s early religious works were the ‘Gypsy Madonna’ and the ‘Madonna of the Cherries’, which are remarkable for their application of color. Soon, he established himself as an interpreter of mythology with works such as ‘Flora’ and ‘Sacred and Profane Love’.
- Between 1516 and 1518, he completed the ‘Assumption of the Virgin’, a masterwork for the high altar of the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Shortly after creating this work of art, Titian was commissioned by Alfonso I d'Este, duke of Ferrara, for creating the mythological work ‘The Worship of Venus’.
- During 1518–1523, he represented classical mythology through his three paintings for the castle of Alfonso d'Este in Ferrara; the Andrians, the Worship of Venus, and Bacchus and Ariadne. Subsequently, he produced masterpieces such as ‘the Madonna and Child with Saints Francis and Aloysius, the Resurrection altar, and the Pesaro Madonna.
- In 1530, he painted his first portrait of the Charles V as Holy Roman emperor while attending the coronation of Emperor. During the next decade, Titian visited Rome at the invitation of Pope Paul III and observed the Renaissance works of Raphael and Michelangelo.
- While in Rome, he produced several masterpieces which consisted of ‘Paul III and His Grandsons’, a stunning artwork of a meeting between the aged pope and his scheming grandsons, and ‘Paul III without Berretta’.
- Upon returning to Venice, Titian produced works such as ‘Christ Crowned with Thorns’ and ‘Martyrdom of St. Lawrence’. In 1550, Titian went to Augsburg upon the invitation of Charles V and painted the portrait of Prince Philip in armor, a work which set a standard for state portraits.
- Between 1550 and 1576, Titian mostly worked for Philip II and painted artworks for the monastery of the Escorial such as the magnificent Crucifixion, the Entombment, and the Adoration of the Kings. Subsequently, Titian obtained many commissions from Philip II for the Escorial including two versions of the Agony in the Garden, and the Last Supper.
- During the same period, Titian executed a series of mythological works for Philip II such as ‘Venus and Adonis’, ‘Diana and Actaeon’, ‘Diana and Callisto’, ‘Perseus and Andromeda’, and ‘the Rape of Europa’.
- One of his early masterpieces which established Titian as one of the leading painters of the era was ‘Assumption of the Virgin’ (1516-1518). The painting became known for its dexterous use of color and the attractive renderings of the human form.
- In his later years, Titian was much devoted to the religious art and painted several mythology-inspired masterworks such as ‘Venus and Adonis’, and ‘Venus and the Lute Player’. Over the years, Titian also created astonishing portraits of few leading figures of the time, Pope Paul III and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
- Titian married Cecilia, a barber’s daughter, following an extended affair during which they had two sons, Pomponio and Orazio. After Cecilia’s death in 1530, Titian married again and became the father of a daughter, Lavinia, but his second wife also died. Thereafter Titian’s sister, Orsola Vecellio, took care of the children.
- Titian died of plague on August 27, 1576, in his palace in Venice. He was buried in the church of S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice.
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