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4.3 out of 5 stars
Titian: His Life
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 5, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Sheila Hale is an expert on Venice and the Renaissance. Her expertise is obvious in Titian: His Life, a biography of Titian and the 15th Century Venice where he lived. And what a life it was - long, productive, and during very interesting times. Titian was born shortly before Columbus discovered the New World and lived during the Ottoman invasions of Europe, the Protestant challenge to the Church, and other wars and political intrigues.

The book is very interesting and well written. In a book of nearly 800 pages, it is perhaps inevitable that some of the information will be of more interest to the specialist than to the casual student of the Renaissance. Nevertheless, one gains a real sense for Titian and for life in Venice during the 1500's.

Unfortunately there are two defects in the book's design. The index is incomplete and difficult to use. The color plates of Titian's paintings are grouped together rather than being reproduced in the text where the painting is discussed. Other paintings are mentioned but never reproduced so it is difficult to see how Titian may have influenced, or been influenced by, other artists.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This was tremendously fun to read. The evocation of 16th century Venice in all of its glory and horror was amazing. Ms Hale gives us an insider's view of Venetian culture, the complex and intertwined religion and politics of the era, and art in the 1500's. There are myriad fascinating verbal portraits and depictions of popes, kings and emperors, and many smaller figures: the mercenary turned pirate, the gang rape of Venice's leading courtesan, the plague that takes the lives of 25% of Venice's population, Titian's best friend who seems to have served as self-appointed chief gadfly for all of Europe. This is a time of great ferment with the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the heights of the Hapsburg and Venetian empires, and some of the last echoes of the Crusades in the battles between Europe and the Ottoman empire. Titian's role as a painter to the highest levels of society meant that all of this plays into his life story. The pace of Ms Hale's narrative is often breathtaking.

The role of Titian's art and the relationships he had (or didn't have) with his contemporaries Michelangelo and Leonardo and the distinctions between the Florentine and Venetian styles of painting are discussed. Many of Titian's painting are dissected and it is tragic to hear so often of their loss or destruction over the centuries since his death or even earlier. It's fascinating to hear what modern science has to say about their composition. An appendix listing where one can see remaining Titian's around the world may be of interest to travellers.

While I'm no artist to judge the quality of the artistic interpretation, Ms Hale's discussion of the art seems appropriate for a general audience and resonates with my own reactions to the sadly few Titian's I've seen. My own introduction to Titian was at a 1983 exhibition in London (which gets mentioned briefly in the book). The book from that exhibition is authored in part by the author's husband(?). Ms Hale has been thinking about Venice and Venetian art for many, many years.

So why only 4 stars? There are dozens of people whom one feels one knows after reading this book: Titian's friend Aretino, his sons, patrons great and small, but after 735 pages, I still don't feel I have much knowledge of Titian himself. Had this book been called 'The Times and Art of Titian' it would have been better. This is a real failing, but how much belongs to the author is unclear. Perhaps Titian is the exception to the expectation that artists must have vivid personalities. Still Hale really doesn't seem to make much effort to get close to the man and what drove him.

There is one other small, but to me more annoying problem with the book. It includes about 20 color plates of Titians. However there is no cross-referencing between the text and the plates and the plates are not in the order they are referenced in the text. So it was mildly painful to check to see if a given painting was actually included in the plates. In my view the reproductions of portraits gives some real sense of the originals, but I'm less clear that that's true for any of the other kinds of paintings. That's not a criticism of the reproductions, just a statement of what's feasible.

If you want to learn about Venice, Titian's art (or that of his contemporaries), politics or religion in 16th century Europe, this is an enthralling and rewarding book. If you want to gain insight into the character of Titian himself, you'll learn many facts, but the author leaves it to you to make any judgements.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Titian is the monumental new biography of the Venetian Renaissance master by Sheila Hale. The huge biography (736 pages of text) in the hardback edition is a richly evocative and detailed look at Titian's long life but also the life of Venice. The artist was born Tiziano Velecci in the Dolomite Mountains near Venice. As a country bumpkin lad he was apprenticed to the artists Giovanni and Gentile Ballini. Titian soon moved far beyond his mentor in his artistic genius. During his life the stately looking artist would become the favorite painter of such monarchs as Charles V the Holy Roman Empire and his son Phillip II of Spain. Titian was also wooed to paint portraits and religious works by the Vatican. He was a favorite of poples Clement VII and Paul III . His many art works were noted for their brilliance of color; realistic detail and the beauty of such lovely ladies as the Venice of Urbano and several paintings of the Holy Family; mythological subjects and countless paintings of seductive young ladies. Titian wed twice producing three children; one of whom became a priest. His wife Cecilia died young and we are ignorant of the name of his second wife. Titian was second only to Micheangelo as a Renaissance artist. Titian did not like leaving his Venetiia studio and employed many apprentice painters. His favorite friend was Arentio the iconoclastic author and critic of the Roman Catholic Church. Titian was a leader of Counter-Reformation art. During his nearly century of life the city of Venus was threatened by invaders from France; the Ottoman Empire and Protestants but remained a powerful independent republic. Toitian enjoyed the good life investing in real estate; lumber manufacture and obtaining rich commissions for his art. He could be stingy and had difficulties dealing with his children. He also enjoyed women having several mistresses in his life.
Hale;'s biography has many notable pages including valuable quotations on the sixteenth century and Titian. A sampling of those quotations:
"Apart from the romantic mountain scenery and the house where he was born there isn't much left of Titian's Cardore."-(the village of his birth)-. p.6
"Although encomiums of great cities were standard Renaissance rhetoric, Venice was the most described and praised of all..."-p. 21
"...respectable women were supposed to be kept at home or closely chaperoned..."-p. 37
"The seriously rich indulged themselves in ways that rivalled the behaviour of our most outrageously ostentatious twenty-first century hedge-fund managers."p. 41
"...female beauty, which was rare and fleeting at a time of disfiguring illnesses and primitive medicine, denistry and cosmetics, was it's ultimate expression."p. 113
"Titian had one of the greatest minds of the Renaissance."-p. 287
"Money was never far from Titian's mind."-p. 500
"Overbearing, shortsighted and selfish though he could be as a father, Titian was unfailingly loyal to his friends."-p. 609

"Time will consume even the sky, but the glory of the great Vecellio will never be consumed by time."p. 736. A quotation on Titian's legacy by Carlo Ridolfi an early biographerthe great man.

Shelia Hale is a longtime art historian who has written a guidbook to Venice and is an expert on Titian. The book can be a "tough slog" to plow through filled with long and obscure Italian, German and Spanish names. The book contains hundreds of pages about political and military matters which are tedious and hard to untangle after 500 years. Many will find the book boring but for those who persevere the book has its pleasures and intellectual profit. It is well illustrated but more pictures could have been interspresed throughout the text whien Hale is describing a work of art.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Still reading this excellent, extremely well researched book Would reccomend it to anyone interest in the Visual Art
or history of Venice. Titian is more than Titians paintings schooling, and life. "Titian" is about Venice, Italy...its
history, politics, social structure, and place in the world of Europe for several centures, as well as how Titian
advanced how people and landscapes are seen, with fewer strokes of the brush, and an appreciation for history,
womlen, and politics. Titian...by:Sheila Hale
JEB
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book is as much about the Hapsburg empire as it is about Titian. In many cases the author relates too much information. Names, dates and places are thrown at the reader at a furious pace. The ebook version is seriously hampered by making the pictures difficult to access. It was easier to Google the paintings than go to the back of the book. Why couldn't the paintings be accessed the way the dictionary is? The book definitely gave me a better understanding of the era, but it was seriously lacking in story ability. There is as much info about Titian dunning his clients as there is about his paintings. I get much more of a sense of the characters of Charles the V and Arentino than I do of Titian. Despite 800 pages Titian remains an enigma.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Without pictures of the referenced art, this E Book is not worth the effort of reading a disjointed and rambling biography which provides little insight into the artist as a man or as to how he grew into a great painter.
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on February 5, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
I guess this is the kind of biography that used to have a title like "Titian and the world of 16th century Venice", because at least half the book is more about other 16th century figures of relevance to Venice and Venetian art, and the narrative of Titian's life is a bit submerged in all the othe r information. "Around this time Titian met Aretino.....[5 or 10 pages on Aretino follow}." However, the non-Titian stuff is well-done, so this isn't necessarily a drawback. I couldn't imagine how there could be enough documented material to support 700-pages plus about a 16th century artist who wasn't Michelangelo or Leonard (unless you wanted one of those art-history monsters that tells you every detail about the contract between the Friars of San Anonimo and the painter.) And there isn't. Also, Hale's discussion of the actual paintings is perhaps less interesting than one might have hoped. (For those seeking that, i recommend Joannides Titian to 1518, though obviously it doesnt get very far into his long career.) So, great for venice-lovers, great for those looking for a book that covers a lot of cultural history; but know what you're buying.
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Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
For anyone interested in History, and the Arts, this is the book to read. The author has a refreshing way of presenting history . Many characters, from Emperors, Popes, Artists, the Citizens of Venice and others, are presented here with warts and all. Titian, the unbelievable creator of art is here reborn, and his interesting personal life shows, what a true genius can accomplish..
Venice, this jewel of a city, with its doges, painters, writers, and ordinary citizens, is beautifuly presented to our eyes. We also get An extra bonus, Because Europe, as it was then, is recreated, We live thriough those turbulent times through Sheila Hales's eyes. Titian, his world, his trials, tribulations and triumphs are a must read. That whole artistic world is here waiting for yoju. Go for it !.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"Experts" often advise a reader to give a book at least 50 pages to see if they like it. I'm now well past that in this 750 page volume and alredy think it's a masterpiece. The author provides lush descriptions of life in Venice and what the society was like that Titian inhabited. It makes you want to go to Venice, but even more it makes me want to seek out all the Titian paintings I can find and LOOK at them and wonder. Extraordinary book!
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on August 29, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Because so little is actually know about the common place of Titian's life much of the book gives an elaborate picture of the world's political environment of the time. All this heavily affected and formed what art and an artist's life would be at the time but it is tough to keep straight all the family lineages of all the major rulers with whom he'd have involvements. Sheila Hale gives a very real idea of what was and is appealing about Titian's paintings and our reactions to them.
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