Tiziano Vecellio was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. During his lifetime he was often called da Cadore, taken from the place of his birth. Titian was one of the most versatile of Italian painters, equally adept with portraits, landscape backgrounds, and mythological and religious subjects. His painting methods, particularly in the application and use of color, would exercise a profound influence not only on painters of the Italian Renaissance, but on future generations of Western art.
At the age of about ten he was sent to Venice and entered the studio of Gentile Bellini, and later to his brother Giovanni Bellini. At that time the Bellinis were the leading artists in the city. Titian joined Giorgione as an assistant but their relationship evidently had a significant element of rivalry. Distinguishing between their work at this period remains a subject of scholarly controversy. The two young masters were likewise recognized as the two leaders of their new school of arte moderna, which is characterized by paintings made more flexible, freed from symmetry and the remnants of hieratic conventions.
After Giorgione 's early death in 1510 and Bellini's in 1516, he obtained a broker's patent, termed La Sanseria or Senseria, in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi and became superintendent of the government works, being especially charged to complete the paintings left unfinished by Giovanni Bellini. He set up an atelier. During this period (1516–1530), which may be called the period of his mastery and maturity, the artist moved on from his early Giorgionesque style, undertook larger, more complex subjects. Titian had unrivaled in the Venetian School. For sixty years he was to be the undisputed master of Venetian painting.
Titian's wife, Cecilia—a barber's daughter from his hometown village of Cadore—was a young woman who had been his housekeeper and mistress for some five years. Cecilia had already born Titian two fine sons, Pomponio and Orazio, when in 1525 she fell seriously ill. Titian, wishing to legitimize the children, married her. The marriage was a happy one and Cecilia recovered and bore him two more children, only one of them, Lavinia, survived. Orazio became his assistant.
During the next period (1530–1550), Titian developed the style introduced by his dramatic Death of St. Peter Martyr. Major works by Titian and other venetian artists were lost by the great fire which destroyed all the old pictures in the great chambers of the Doge's Palace in 1577. But this period of the master's work is still represented by the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin (Venice, 1539) and by the Ecce Homo (Vienna, 1541). During his visit to Rome, the artist began his series of reclining Venuses (The Venus of Urbino of the Uffizi, Venus and Love at the same museum, Venus and the Organ-Player, Madrid), in which is recognized the effect or the direct reflection of the impression produced on the master by contact with ancient sculpture. He painted the likenesses of princes, or Doges, cardinals or monks, and artists or writers. As a matter of professional and worldly success his position from about this time is regarded as equal only to that of Raphael, Michelangelo and, at a later date, Rubens.
He visited Rome in 1546, and obtained the freedom of the city and back in Venice in 1550, to execute the portrait of Philip II which was sent to England and proved useful in Philip's suit for the hand of Queen Mary. During the last twenty-six years of his life (1550–1576) the artist worked mainly for Philip II and as a portrait-painter. He became more self-critical, an insatiable perfectionist, keeping some pictures in his studio for ten years. He also finished off many copies of earlier works of his by his pupils, giving rise to many problems of attribution and priority among versions of his works, which were also very widely copied and faked outside his studio, during his lifetime and afterwards. For Philip II he painted a series of large mythological paintings known as the "poesie", mostly from Ovid, which are regarded as among his greatest works.
He continued to accept commissions to the end of his life. Titian was probably in his late eighties when the plague raging in Venice took him on 27 August 1576. He was the only victim of the Venice plague to be given a church burial.
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