William Collins £20
Paperback review: Titian - His Life and the Golden Age of Venice, By Sheila Hale
Sunday 15 September 2013
Can we understand Titian without also understanding the city that was his home, how it functioned and who was important to it? Hale makes a splendid case here for the artist and his context intertwined, displaying a backdrop every bit as flashy and colourful as his most celebrated paintings.
Titian worked through and beyond the corrupt Borgia popes in his homeland, and murderous English kings abroad, surviving scourges and routs, plagues and earthquakes: what kind of artist did it make him?
Pretty savvy, is the answer. Like Turner, Titian is the antithesis of the penniless artist cliché, successful as he was all his life, well known, and feted by the rich. Hale suggests that the myth of his beginnings as an “untutored child artist” may not quite be true, but timing is everything, and Titian had “arrived in a Venice that was enjoying what has been called its first Renaissance”.
Not only did he have an extraordinary talent, he was able to work with masters such as Giorgione, who helped hone his style at an early age. Patrons such as Lucrezia Borgia’s husband Alfonso made him rich. Hale is especially good on the patronage system, showing how crucial it was to Italian society.
Titian was also a good businessman, and while slow, was still better at deadlines than, for example, Michelangelo. This also flies in the face of the hapless artist cliché, unable to manage money. He was, like his friend and sometime business manager Aretino, a “self-made man”. Did this also make him controlling and cold, damaging his sons, especially the eldest, whom he pushed towards the Church? After his first wife Cecilia died when her children were small, he seems to have remarried, but we know very little about the woman who took Cecilia’s place.
His admiration of the female body is clear in his work which both glorifies and naturalises it, but he was hard-headed enough to know that “a sexy nude” might remind a benefactor of a night of passion and work in his favour. Hale’s clear-eyed approach to her subject serves her particularly well in these instances, which illuminate both the man and his art.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I was raped by another man. And now the Government wants to take away the one thing that saved my life
- 2 UK's biggest male rape charity Survivors UK has state funding slashed to zero despite 120% rise in men reporting sexual violence and seeking help
- 3 Ricky Gervais jokes about 'battering Danish DJ to death with a bicycle pump' after rabbit killed
- 4 Iran launches anti-Isis cartoon competition 'to expose true nature of Islamic State'
- 5 England 'favourites' to host 2018 World Cup following Fifa arrests
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Point Break remake gets first trailer as fans of the original wonder why this is happening
The X Files: David Duchovny 'started crying' when reading new script for TV revival
Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life
Suicide Squad: leaked footage shows first look at Batmobile chasing Joker through city streets
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train