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Titian is a magisterial new biography of Venetian Renaissance master of painting and the turburlent world in which he worked
on February 5, 2013
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.