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February 22 , 2008

Titian: His Life and the Golden Age of Venice


The first biography of Venice’s greatest artist since 1877 – a towering work which captures the genius of Titian – and the extraordinary times in which he lived – the apogee of Venice’s power and influence. Born in the mountains above Venice in the late fifteenth-century, Tiziano Vecellio – or Titian – was the greatest painter of the Italian High Renaissance, an artist whose poetic vision and mastery of oil pigments made him into an international celebrity and continues to inspire working painters to this day. He lived in a Venice that was the most populous, celebrated, and visited city in Europe, painting everything from frescos, grand altarpieces, mythological stories, and portraits that were described by his contemporaries as “mirrors of nature”. Sheila Hale’s rich and monumental biography of Titian is the first since 1877 to examine all contemporary accounts of Titian’s life and work, and to take into account recent art historical research and scholarship. Her book charts the extraordinary transformation of Titian’s style from the radiant minutely realised masterpieces of his youth, to the more freely painted work of his middle years, to the dark, tragic, sometimes terrifying visions of his old age. Since no one person can do justice to an artist as great, protean and complex as Titian, many different voices – both contemporary and later – have been allowed free reign to explore, praise and sometimes doubt his genius. When Titian died in Venice in 1576 he was in his late eighties, and had spent the whole of his working life there, travelling as little as possible despite the clamour for his presence at the great courts of Europe. Sheila Hale’s masterly biography presents Titian through the story of the turbulent century in which he lived, and gives a vivid portrait of how this innovative 16th-century master conveyed in his paintings a kind of truth that few other artists have been able to communicate and which has fascinated Titian’s admirers and followers for centuries.
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