Titian, Vecellio

, the great master of colour, was born at the castle of Caclor in Friuli, 1480. His education under Sebastiano Zuccati, of Trevigi, and afterwards under Giovanni Bellini, rendered him a diligent and subtle observer of every object that strikes the senses: so that when at a inaturer age he entered into a competition of finish with Albert Durer, and painted at Ferrara the picture of “Christ with the tribute-mon^y,” now at Dresden, he excelled, in nicety of penciling, that master of minuteness; with this difference of result, that though the hairs on the heads and hands of his figures might be counted, though every pore of the flesh was discriminated, and the objects reflected in the pupils of the eyes, the effect of the whole was not diminished, but seemed to gain more breath and grandeur by distance. To this work, however, he made no companion, and at an early period appears to have adopted that freer and less anxious method found by Giorgioue, his. fellow-scholar first, and then his rival. Some portraits painted by Titian during that short period cannot be distinguished from those of Giorgione himself; but he soon found a new style, perhaps less vapoury, not so fiery nor so grand; but sweeter a style which ravishes | the beholder less by the novelty of its effect than by a genuine representation of truth. The first work of this style, all his own, is the “Archangel Raphael leading Tobiah, in the sacristy of S. Marziale,” painted in his thirtieth year; and the “Presentation of the Virgin” at the Carita, one of his richest and most numerous compositions remaining (for many perished by fire), is said by Ridolft to have followed it at a very short interval.

To no coiourist, before or after him, did Nature unveil herself with that dignified familiarity in which she appeared to Titian. His organ, universal, and equally fit for all her exhibitions, rendered her simplest to her most compound appearances with equal purity and truth. He penetrated the essence and the general principle of the substances before him, and on these established his theory of colour. He invented that breadth of local tint which no imitation has attained; by taking the predominant quality of colour in an object, for the whole, painting flesh which abounded in demitints, entirely in demitints; and depriving of all demitints, what had but few. He first expressed the negative nature of shade. Perfect master of contrast, of warm and cold tints, he knew by their balance, diffusion, and recall, to tone the whole. His are the charms of glazing, and the mystery of reflexes, by which he detached, rounded, connected, or enriched, his objects. He was the first who changed stuffs to drapery, gave it local value, and a place, subordination, and effect. His harmony is less indebted to the force of light and shade, than to true gradation of tone. His tone springs out of his subject, grave, solemn, gay, minacious, or soothing. His eye tinged Nature with gold, without impairing her freshness. She dictated his scenery. Landscape, whether it be considered as the transcript of a spot, or the rich combination of congenial objects, or as the scene of a phenomenon, as subject and as back-ground, dates, if not its origin, its real value, from him. He is the father of portrait-painting; of resemblance with form, character with dignity, grace with simplicity, and costume with taste.

In design Titian had a style, and in composition and expression occasionally excelled, though on the whole they were little more for him than vehicles of colour. That he possessed the theory of the human frame, needs not to be proved from the doubtful designs which he is said to hare furnished for the anatomical work of Vesalio; that he | had familiarised himself with the line of Michael Angelo, and burned with ambition to emulate it, is less evident from adopting some of his attitudes in the pictures of “Pietro Martire,” and the battle of Ghiaradadda, than from the elemental conceptions, the colossal style, and daring foreshortenings, which astonish on the cieling of the Salute. In general, however, his male forms have less selection than sanguine health; often too fleshy for character, Jess elastic than muscular, and vigorous without grandeur. His females are the fair, dimpled, Venetian race, soft without delicacy, too full for elegance, for action too plump. Titian was abundantly honoured in his life-time. He made three several portraits of the emperor Charles V. who honoured him with knighthood, created him count palatine, made all his descendants gentlemen, and assigned him a considerable pension out of the chamber at Naples. The respect of Charles V. for Titian was as great as that of Francis I. for Leonardo da Vinci; and many particulars of it are recorded. It is said, that the emperor one day took up a pencil, which fell from the hand of this artist, who was then drawing his picture; and that, upon the compliment which Titian made him on this occasion, he replied, “Titian has merited to be served by Caesar.” And when some lords of the emperor’s court, not being able to conceal their jealousy of the preference he gave of Titian’s person and conversation to that of all his other courtiers, the emperor freely told them, “that he could never want courtiers, but could not have Titian always with him.” Accordingly, he heaped riches on him; and whenever he sent him money, which was usually a large sum, it was with the compliment, that “his design was not to pay him the value of his pictures, because they were above any price.” He painted also his son Philip II. Soliman emperor of the Turks, two popes, three kings, two empresses, several queens, and almost all the princes of Italy, together with the famous Ariosto and Peter Aretine, who were, his intimate friends. Nay, so great was the name and reputation of Titian, that there was hardly a person of any eminence then living in Europe, from whom he did not receive some particular mark of esteem: and his house at Venice was the constant rendezvous of all the virtuosi and people of the best quality. That he had his weaknesses, we have already noticed in our account of Tintoretto. He was so happy in the constitution of his body, that he had | never been sick till 1576 and then he died of the plague, at the extraordinary age of ninety-nine. It has been remarked that we have many instances of the longevity of painters. Ninety is an extraordinary age for any man, but Spinello lived beyond it. Carlo Cignani died at ninetyone; Titian at the same age; M. Ang. Buonarotti at ninety; Leonardo da Vinci at seventy-five; Calabrese at eighty-six; Claude Lorraine at eighty-two; Carlo Maratti at eighty-eight, and prodigious numbers of eminent painters from sixty upwards.

Titian left behind him two sons and a brother, of whom Pomponio, the eldest, obtained preferment in the church. Horatio, the youngest, painted several portraits, which might stand in competition with those of his father. He was celebrated also for many history pieces, which he painted at Venice, in concurrence with Paul Veronese and Tintoret. But bewitched at last with chemistry, and the hopes of finding the philosopher’s stone, he laid aside the pencil; and having reduced what he got by his father to nothing, died of the plague in the same year with him. Francesco Vecelli, Titian’s brother, was trained to arms in the Italian wars; but peace being restored, applied himself afterwards to painting. He became so great a proficient in it, that Titian grew jealous of him; and fearing, lest in time he should eclipse his reputation, sent him upon pretended business to Ferdinand king of the Romans. Afterwards he followed another profession, and made cabinets of ebony adorned with figures; which, however, did not hinder him from painting now and then a portrait far a friend. 1


Pilkington by Fuseli.—Argenville, vol. I.—Aglionby’s Lives of the Painters. —Sir J. Reynolds’s Works.