This lesson will cover the years 1520 to 1538 in Venice, Italy.
Below is a timeline highlighting the period covered in this lesson. Note that the voyage of Columbus in 1492 is also highlighted as a reference point.
Venice, like Florence, was a republic during this time. Because of its strategic location on the water, Venice was a major trading destination and naval force.
The use of color is something strongly associated with painters from this time and location. One of these painters was the artist Rona Goffen Titian. He created a body of work that defined this type of painting, and established himself as one of the preeminent painters of the Italian Renaissance.
Titian's work is often categorized into one of three types:
Below is an example of a painting of Titian’s that would be categorized as mythological. This painting is titled “Meeting of Bacchus and Ariadne,” and dates from 1520-1523.
Notice how color is used to define the figures. Venetian painters differed from their Florentine counterparts in how they used color to define forms and create a sense of luminosity. In contrast, Florentine partners emphasized contour and contrast of light and shadow to define form.
A sense of vibrancy exists due to the color and playfulness of the subject matter. In the above scene, Bacchus arrives on a leopard-drawn chariot. He appears to leap out of the chariot towards the figure of Ariadne in the above painting. Notice how Titian uses color to create the extremely convincing satinesque sheen of Bacchus’s robe. It draws your attention to the central character. The painting is full of playful imagery, such as the tiny fawn in the foreground and the advancing entourage behind Bacchus.
Titian includes a figure of a bearded man entwined in snakes, which you can see in the foreground right behind the fawn. This is a nod to the central figure of a statue recently rediscovered at that time. Originating in Hellenistic Greece, it is titled “Laocoön and His Sons”. It is shown below.
Titian was in great demand as a portrait painter as well. The portrait shown below, titled “Isabella in Black,” is of the prominent Renaissance woman Isabella d'Este, the daughter of the Duke of Ferrara.
This portrait was actually painted when Isabella was in her 60s, but she’s depicted as a youth in her 20s. Titian achieves a focus on her face and hands by blending the black of her clothing into the background. This technique enhances the luminosity of her face. The highly detailed sleeves of her clothing draw your attention to her hands. The entire composition evokes a sense of poise, the experience of age expressed in the body of a young woman.
This next painting, later titled “Venus of Urbino,” has come to define the category of the reclining nude female.
“Venus of Urbino” was a commission from the eventual Duke of Urbino for his own private enjoyment. Notice that her attendants are searching for clothing in the background. The seductive Venus, who is partially concealed by what appears to be a velvet curtain, makes eye contact with the viewer. Titian’s use of deep reds and ivories helps to enhance the impression of a pinkish hue emanating from her skin.
This painting was inspired by an earlier painting of a sleeping Venus (shown below) by the Venetian painter, Giorgione.
Source: THIS WORK IS ADAPTED FROM SOPHIA AUTHOR IAN MCCONNELL.