Amidst high drama and intense rivalry, the great triumvirateTitian, Tintoretto, and Veronesedominated the landscape of Venetian painting in the 16th century for almost four decades, propelling the Venetian School to new creative heights. This dynamic relationship has been recreated in Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice, the first major exhibition dedicated to the competition that developed among these renowned masters, which explores the emergence of the signature styles of Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese, and the artistic exchange that existed among them. Juxtapositions of related works contribute new scholarship to the discussion of these artists and the influence they had upon one another. The exhibition also looks at the critical transformation of the art world in early 16th-century Venice that occurred with the introduction of oil paint on canvas support and the development of the canvas easel painting.
Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
(MFA), and the Musée du Louvre, Paris, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese is on view at the MFA from March 15August 16, 2009, in the MFAs Gund Gallery, and September 14, 2009January 4, 2010, at the Louvre.
Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese created a Venetian style, inspired by the counterpoint that arose as one artist responded on canvas to another, said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. Fueled by the constant vying for patronage, prestige, and financial rewards, theirs was a highly charged, personal relationship that resulted in some of the greatest paintings of the Italian Renaissance. It is a pleasure to collaborate with our colleagues at the Louvre to offer this exploration of the artistic dialogue that arose among these three Venetian masters.
Fifty-seven notable works are featured in the exhibition, lent by major museums in Europe and the United States and, significantly, several churches in Venice. Fourteen paintings are coming from Italy, including those from the Gallerie dellAccademia in Venice and the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence. These important loans reflect an ongoing cultural exchange between the MFA and Italy, which includes collaboration in the areas of exhibitions, scholarship, and conservation. An important nucleus of works has been provided by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Musée du Louvre in Paris. A number of paintings have been specially restored for this exhibition. Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese is curated by Frederick Ilchman, the Mrs. Russell W. Baker Assistant Curator of Paintings, Art of Europe, at the MFA; Jean Habert, Conservateur général au département des Peintures du Musée du Louvre; and Vincent Delieuvin, Conservateur au département des Peintures du Musée du Louvre.
The exhibition brings into view the colorful world of 16th-century Veniceone of Europes wealthiest, most cosmopolitan citiesa bustling center of international commerce with a flourishing art market, where the demand for exceptional paintings fostered a competitive climate and great innovation. The intersection of the periods three great masters is explored in seven sections within the exhibition: The Transformation of Venetian Painting around 1500; The Three Protagonists; Sacred Themes; Below the Surface: Veronese, Titian, and Tintoretto in the Boston Museum; Mythology and the Female Nude; Portraiture; and Late Styles.
The Transformation of Venetian Painting around 1500
At the turn of the 16th century, Giovanni Bellini was Venices leading painter, the master in whose studio the young Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, about 14881576) spent his formative years. Schooled at first in the use of tempera on panel, Titian gravitated to innovative mediaoil painting on canvaswhich offered rich colors, dramatic lighting, and interesting textures, bringing the subject to life. Titian eventually outgrew his master, whose works had a more staged quality, by developing greater naturalism and energy in his religious paintings. The exhibition opens with an example of the changes in Venetian painting around 1500 as seen in the comparison of the Virgin and Child with Saints by Giovanni Bellini and his Workshop (about 150508, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), and Titians Virgin and Child with Saints and Donor (about 151314, Fondazione Magnani Rocca, Mamiano). This section demonstrates the vivid contrast between the earlier tradition of painting on wood panel and the new possibilities of painting on canvas, and lays the groundwork for the emergence of Titian as Bellinis successor. Although Titian rose to become the leader of the Venetian School, his supremacy later was challenged by his pupil, Tintoretto, and a newcomer, Veronese. Together, the three artists defined a Venetian style characterized by loose technique, rich coloring, and often pastoral or sensual subject matter.
Although 40 years separate the birth of Titian from that of Veronese, the careers of the three painters overlapped for almost four decades, and the eloquent record of their artistic dialogue is most apparent when we consider, side by side, the powerful canvases each produced, said Frederick Ilchman, the exhibition curator in Boston, who is the MFAs Mrs. Russell W. Baker Assistant Curator of Paintings, Art of Europe.
The Three Protagonists
Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese became Venices greatest painterseach one developing a signature style so distinctive that it made the practice of signing a picture redundant. In fact, only a handful of paintings in Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese are signed. Titian realized the potential of oil on canvas and personalized the manipulation of paint on the textured surface. For the first time in European art, a painters unique, expressive brushwork could serve as his signature. By the 1520s, Titian was celebrated throughout Italy for his artistry, in particular his monumental painted altarpieces for churches in Venice, which helped him cultivate an influential clientele, including government officials, corporate patrons such as the Scuole Grandi (confraternities for laymen), and the crowned heads of Europe, above all, Charles V and Philip II of Spain. Titian also achieved renown for his innovations in portraiture, creating bold and direct images of powerful men, as seen in his portrait of Pope Paul III (1543, Museo di Capodimonte, Naples). Titians depiction of feminine beauty in his early maturity is evident in Flora (about 151618, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence), and in his mythological paintings, such as Venus Rising from the Sea (about 1520, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh).
By the mid 16th century, however, Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti, about 151894), the son of a fabric dyer (tintore), also had established himself in Renaissance Venicechallenging Titians artistic supremacy and competing for coveted scuole and government patronage. (Tintoretto and his workshop were responsible for the creation of more official paintings for the state of Venice than any other artist, though never matching Titians success with European monarchs.) Tintoretto is said to have received some early training in Titians workshop, and took as his motto the draftsmanship of Michelangelo, the coloring of Titian, often making preliminary drawings directly on canvas in paint using long brushstrokes. But Tintoretto became a determined competitor to Venices reigning master, substituting energy and athleticism in place of Titians serenity and grandeur. His dramatic Self-Portrait (about 154647, Philadelphia Museum of Art) announces a challenge to the status quo. Tintorettos arrival on the scene is also exemplified by his Contest between Apollo and Marsyas (154445, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford). In response to Tintorettos bold new style, Titian accelerated his freer paint handling.
The arrival of Veronese (Paolo Caliari, 152888)nicknamed for his birthplace, Verona enlivened the dynamics of the Venetian art scene in the mid 16th century. The newcomer began to model himself on Titian and, in turn, the old master sought to promote Veronese at the expense of Tintoretto. As a youth, Veronese made a name for himself as a decorator of private homes in his provincial birthplace, receiving his first important commission at 17 to paint frescoes at the Palazzo Canossa in Verona. His emergence is illustrated by two of his early works, Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood (about 1548, The National Gallery, London), and Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine (about 1549, Barker Welfare Foundation, on loan to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven). He relocated to Venice by the early 1550s. Gaining a reputation as a master of the grand gesture, as evidenced in his sweeping allegorical and Biblical scenes, Veronese was commissioned to paint numerous important works, including canvases on the ceiling of the Room of the Council of Ten in the Palazzo Ducale in Venice. He established himself with a wealthy clientele, becoming a favorite of several prominent families and religious groups. Dignified in his style, he favored a pastel palette distinct from Tintorettos, and their differences were already apparent in the youthful work of both artists.
All three protagonists took part in the exploration of how best to capture the three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional surface. Like other Venetian painters, they were interested in the use of artifice to show more than one side of a figure simultaneously. Renaissance painters set themselves to depicting reflections of a figure in water, a mirror, or in polished metal, creating a sophisticated genre of painting emphasizing reflections, said Jean Habert, Conservateur général au département des Peintures du Musée du Louvre. Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese developed this new genre their whole careers, with equal success in sacred and secular painting, creating noble images of warrior saints with sparkling armor or sumptuous figures of women occupied at their toilette before a mirrorpictures that remain one of the glories of Venetian painting of the Renaissance in Europe.
Religion was woven into the fabric of daily life in Renaissance Venice, as it was throughout most of Europe. Virtually all manner of artwork reflected the intertwined relationship between the sacred and secular worlds. Religious themes dominated paintings of the Venetian School and could be seen in houses of worship, private homes, and government buildings. But because of Venices geographical location, fresco painting tended to deteriorate in its damp climate, and lacked the permanence found in Italys other great centers of art. As a result, both altarpieces and mural decorations adopted the canvas support. This section of the exhibition showcases several altarpieces, including Veroneses Temptation of Saint Anthony (1552-53, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Caen), and his Virgin and Child with Saint Anthony Abbot and Saint Paul (1562, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk), as well as Tintorettos version, Temptation of Saint Anthony (about 1577, Church of San Trovaso, Venice).
Sixteenth-century Venice was famous for the development of large narrative paintings on canvas, in particular festive treatments of religious feasts like the Last Supper. In the exhibition, feast paintings are exemplified by three different treatments of the Supper at Emmaus: Titians (153334, Musée du Louvre, Paris), Tintorettos (about 1542, Szépmúvészeti Múzeum, Budapest), and Veroneses (mid 1570s, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam). Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese also features paintings where the artists tried to outdo each other in the depiction of armor, for example, Saint George, Saint Louis, and the Princess (1552, Gallerie dellAccademia, Venice) by Tintoretto, and Saint Menna (about 1560, Galleria Estense, Modena) by Veronese. A third category of religious artistry includes the smaller-scale pictures commissioned by connoisseurs, who began to collect works of sacred subjects for their aesthetic appeal.
Below the Surface: Veronese, Titian, and Tintoretto in the Boston Museum
In addition to offering new scholarship on the relationship among Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese, the exhibition also reveals to the public technical discoveries of paintings from the MFAs collection and discusses the creative processes of these three artists. The section Below the Surface explores surprising hidden aspects of Tintorettos Nativity (about 1580, MFA), Veroneses Jupiter and a Nude (1560s, MFA), and Titians Saint Catherine of Alexandria (about 1567, MFA).
A complex investigation was undertaken by MFA conservators for Tintorettos large-scale (5 x 12 feet) Nativity. Using x-radiography and infrared reflectography, it was discovered that below the Nativity appears to be the bottom section of another composition. Conservators began their examination by trying to explain inconsistencies visible on the surface: the apparent repainting of figures, stylistic variations to indicate the hand of more than one artist, differences in tonality, and the odd fact that a shepherd was looking away from the central figure, the Christ Child, in a Nativity scene. In fact, these oddities are the result of a substantially different original composition, reworked to produce the Nativity seen on the surface. Employing similar techniques, an examination of Jupiter and a Nude using infrared reflectography indicates that Veronese made extensive under drawings in preparation for this work as well as an unrelated drawing in the lower right hand corner of the painting. An analysis of Titians Saint Catherine of Alexandria, with its unevenness of paint handling, unusual composition, and strange array of attributes, at first suggested that it might have been intended as a depiction of Saint Catherine of Siena. However, recent x-radiography confirmed that the subject was, indeed, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, but that extensive revisions had been made to the painting, in keeping with the practice of Titian and his workshop in his later career.
Mythology and the Female Nude
Though religious works predominated in 16th-century Venice, female nudes drawn from mythology and the Bible, as well as portraiture, were in demand. Evoking classical mythology, goddesses such as Venus and beautiful mortals such as Danaëeven Biblical figures such as Susannahwere favored excuses to depict female beauty. In this section of Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese that highlights female nudes, paintings are compared within the context of several themes: Objects of Desire, Nudes at the Mirror, and Allegories of Love. Titians Danaë (154446, Museo di Capodimonte, Naples) is juxtaposed with other pictures of sensual reclining nudes. In addition, female nudes with a mirror, and the themes of visual delectation and vanity, are seen in Titians Venus with a Mirror (about 1555, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC), Tintorettos Susannah and the Elders (about 155556, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), and Veroneses Venus with a Mirror (Venus at Her Toilette) (mid 1580s, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha).
Venetian Renaissance palaces were famous for the quantity of portraits they contained. Titian and his workshop may have produced more than 200 portraits featuring an international clientele of prominent figures, extending to popes and kings. Tintoretto was an even more prolific portraitist, whose patrons included members of Venices elite. Along with Veronese, they painted individuals of all ranks. Grouped under the heading of Gentlemen of Fashion are portraits by all three painters showing handsome young men in fur-trimmed robes: Titians Portrait of a Man (Tommaso Mosti?) (about 1520, Galleria Palatina, Florence); Tintorettos Portrait of a Man aged Twenty-six (about 1547, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo); and Veroneses Portrait of a Man (about 155153, Szépmúvészeti Múzeum, Budapest). It is as if Tintoretto tried to improve upon Titians prototype only to have Veronese in turn outdo him. Other groupings include Warriors and a charming selection of Children and Families.
As a result of their intense rivalry, which played out within Venices vibrant artistic community during the 40 years their careers overlapped, Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese had a profound effect on one another. The exhibition offers comparisons of the artists in their later years as seen in select thematic groupings, including Women in Peril, Saint Jerome in the Wilderness, and the Baptism of Christ. Women in Peril features interpretations of Tarquin and Lucretia as executed by Titian (about 1568-71, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux) and Tintoretto (157880, Art Institute of Chicago), seen alongside Veroneses Perseus and Andromeda (late 1570searly 1580s, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes). Another important cluster of works highlights three paintings of Saint Jerome in the Wilderness, since the penitent and introspective saint offered an obvious subject for an aging male artist, as seen in examples by Tintoretto (about 157172, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), Titian (about 157075, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid), and Veronese (about 1580, Gallerie dellAccademia, Venice).
The artistic dialogue in their later works possesses a certain commonality in the looseness of their brushwork and a more liberated approach to color. Titians brushstrokes were more expansive and noticeable, and he began to build up his paintings with numerous layers of paint. Because of the infirmities of advancing age, Titian also reduced the scale of his works and focused on fewer principal characters, relegating large-scale paintings to assistants. After Titians death in 1576, Tintoretto and Veronese became official heirs to his legacy and his clientele. Tintorettos style continued to reflect his earlier rapid brushwork, using long lines and strong contours. But with Titians demise, he sought new patronage opportunities and explored new subject matter. Veronese in his later years developed a more mature style reflecting a darker, more somber mood with a new devotional intensity. Still the master of the grand spectacle, he continued to receive important commissions, and even found favor with Philip II of Spain. Tintoretto outlived him, and Tintorettos final Self-portrait (about 1588, Musée du Louvre, Paris) offers a poignant view of the last great man of the Venetian Renaissance. In the end, each artist created his own signature style, which would have a lasting effect on the course of European painting.