Tiziano and the color revolution
What painter can boast of having given his name to a color? There is no Leonardo "brown" or Michelangelo "pink", but there is the "Titian red".
A wall and destiny
Titian's date of birth is not sure. Let's say between 1488 and 1490. It is certain that it lived almost 100 years.
Tiziano was born in Pieve di Cadore and belongs to the Vecellio family, a well-known and wealthy family. He was orphaned by a very young mother and was brought back to his father's house. Tradition has it that Titian paints a Madonna on a house wall using colors derived from herbs and flowers.
Struck by the beauty of the drawing, his father sent him to Venice with his older brother Francesco to learn artistic techniques.
Francesco then dedicated himself to entrepreneurship and military life and Titian entered the workshop of Gentile Bellini.
Titian arrived in Venice in his prime. The lagoon city dominated the trade of the Mediterranean and the "via delle Indie" was open.
Wealthy Venetians began to prefer to invest in the mainland rather than in the rigging of new ships, because they ran less risk considering the threatening activity of the Turks.
New palaces, agricultural activities in the domains of Venice, which went as far as Bergamo and Brescia, make contemporaries say: "everything - and whatever you want - you can find plenty of it". Strong and independent from the Papal State, it attracted intellectuals, artists and the persecuted who, in Venice, could express themselves freely.
This was not the case with Titian, but Leonardo, Dürer, Michelangelo and many others passed through Venice to enrich the cultural reality.
Beyond the "Modern Manner"?
The information that enriches the biographies of the painters, from Giotto to about 1550, comes from Giorgio Vasari and his book (The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects). The news, however, is not always reliable because Vasari had great imagination.
For this reason the relations between Titian and Giorgione are not so certain. What is certain is Titian's style. Vasari invents a label, the "modern way" to indicate the way of painting of the three greatest masters of the time: Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael. Alongside the three “bigs” a dozen masters including Tiziano.
"Mannerism" is the name that it identifies the painters who, instead of referring to reality or personal research, took Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo as their point of reference.
However, Titian went further.
Supremacy of the Tiziano "brand" In a short time Tiziano made a name for himself, both for the use of color and for his ability as a "businessman" who dealt directly with clients. Titian's workshop was filled with commissions from portraits to mythological subjects, from religious paintings to allegorical compositions.
His ability to paint landscapes also earned him numerous commissions from the wealthy Flemish and German merchants present in Venice.
Other painters, including Sebastiano del Piombo, preferred to leave Venice for Rome because they were unable to compete with Titian's supremacy.
The richest in history
In 1513 Pope Leo X invited Titian to Rome, but the Cadore painter refused. Titian sent a letter to the Council of Ten demanding the appointment of "Official Painter of the Serenissima".
The job was given to him, but only three years later, when the place was vacated by the death of Bellini, and Titian occupied it for sixty years.
With the appointment as official painter of the Serenissima, Titian's career was assured. The position yielded one hundred ducats a year (perhaps comparable to 100,000 euros today), exemption from paying taxes and other privileges to which were added the fees for commissions.
Tiziano is now aware of his means and his fame and alongside his business a trade in wood from Cadore, where he was born, indispensable for the shipyards of Venice.
Kings and lords of the courts from all over Europe competed for his paintings, naturally to the sound of money. Titian becomes the richest painter in history.
Titian does not use drawing as the big three did meticulously, but he sets the background of the picture already with different colors following a brush sketch. Allows the oil to dry and intervenes with quick and rough brushstrokes to define the dimensions with greater precision.
After this second operation, Titian turns the picture towards the wall, so as not to see it and not to show it, and does not deal with it, sometimes for months.
At the end of the period of "settling" Titian tackles the picture by arranging the figures, removing, specifying, as if it were a chess game between him and the picture.
And little by little he finishes it with glazes and the last touches… with his fingers.
The plague epidemic killed him on 27 August 1576.
Titian did not leave students, but his revolutionary chromatic lesson has spanned the centuries with an impressive modernity.