Tiziano Vecelli or Vecellio (c. 1488-90 – 27 August 1576), better known as Titian, was the leader of the 16th-century Venetian school of the Italian Renaissance. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, in the Cadore territory, near Belluno (Veneto), in Italy, and died in Venice. Many letters of Titian were very probably written by Aretino, between 1527-1556. From 1556 it was Verdizotti (one of his pupils) did secretarial services for Titian.
- I, Titian of Cadore, having studied painting from childhood upwards, and desirous of fame rather than profit, wish to serve the Doge and Signori, rather than his Highness the Pope and other Signori, who in past days, and even now, have urgently asked to employ me: I am therefore anxious, if it should appear feasible, to paint in the Hall of Council, beginning, if it please their sublimity, with the canvas of 'The Battle' on the side towards the Piazza, which is so difficult that no one as yet has had courage to attempt it...
- from a petition presented by Titian, and read on the 31st of May, 1513, before the Council of ten of Venice; as quoted by J.A.Y. Crowe & G.B. Cavalcaselle in Titian his life and times - With some account..., publisher John Murray, London, 1877, p. 153-154
- The chiefs of the Council on the day in question accepted Titian's offer. Sharp monitions reminded him in 1518, 1522 and 1537 that he should complete 'The Battle', he did not until 1539
- Your Excellency, I went without delay to the well of which Y. E. had written, and made a sketch of it, from which Y. E. will see how the matter stands; but I wish that sketch not to go alone, so send another with it of a well after the fashion of this country. Should these drawings appear to have been done in a manner not agreeable to the greatness of your illustrious Signorina, or in accordance with my humble desire to serve Y. E., I hope to be excused; and that Y. E. will ascribe, the cause to an earnest longing that the work should be done rapidly. I am entirely at command should the drawings be considered unsatisfactory, and am ready to furnish others...
- In a letter to the Duke Alfonso of Ferrara, From Venice, Feb. 19, 1517; from the original in Marquis Campori's Tiziano e gli Estensi, p. 5; as quoted by J.A.Y. Crowe & G.B. Cavalcaselle in Titian his life and times - With some account ..., publisher John Murray, London, 1877, p. 178-79
- Most Illustrious Lord and My Lord, I received the other day, with due reverence your Lordship's letter, together with the canvas and framing. Having read and noted the contents, I considered them so pretty and ingenious as to require no improvement of any kind; and the more I thought over it the more I became convinced that the greatness of art amongst the ancients was due to the assistance they received from great princes content to leave to the painters the credit and renown derived from their own ingenuity in bespeaking pictures. Can I therefore doubt that, if God enables me to satisfy in any part the wishes of Your Lordship, I shall have all credit for my labour? Yet I shall, after all have done no more than give shape to that which received its spirit — the most essential part — from Your Excellency.
- In a letter to the Duke Alfonso of Ferrara, From Venice, April 1, 1518; as quoted by J.A.Y. Crowe & G.B. Cavalcaselle in Titian his life and times - With some account ..., publisher John Murray, London, 1877, p. 181-82
- [I wish] to engrave and distribute [the prints] for the benefit and knowledge and use of painters and sculptors and other knowledge-able persons.
- official document, 1567; as quoted by Bruce Kohl in Titian and Venetian Painting, 1450-1590; publishers Westview Press, 1999, p. 117
- In 1567 Titian applied to the Venetian senate for a fifteen-year copyright privilege for engravings, made after his work. The Dutch artist Cornelis Cort produced prints after Titian's work, all made in collaboration, in 1555-56 and 1571-72
- He who improvises can never make a perfect line of poetry.
- As quoted in A Dictionary of Art and Artists (1959) by Peter Murray and Linda Murray, p. 321.
- It is not bright colors but good drawing that makes figures beautiful.
- As quoted in The Quotable Artist (2002) by Peggy Hadden, p. 32.
- Not every painter has a gift for painting, in fact, many painters are disappointed when they meet with difficulties in art. Painting done under pressure by artists without the necessary talent can only give rise to formlessness, as painting is a profession that requires peace of mind. The painter must always seek the essence of things, always represent the essential characteristics and emotions of the person he is painting...
- As quoted in The Quotable Artist (2002) by Peggy Hadden, p. 71.
- Variant: They who are compelled to paint by force, without being in the necessary mood, can produce only ungainly works, because this profession requires an unruffled temper.
- As quoted in The Quotable Artist (2002) by Peggy Hadden, p. 72.
Quotes about Titian
Quotes by contemporaries
- He [Titian] told me he remembered that there were [already] three pictures in the fazata (wall facing the light ?) in Your Excellency's Studio; and that your Excellency had arranged that this one should be hung on the same fazata. He wishes to know whether the new canvas is to be in the middle of the others, or at one side, either towards the chapel or towards the Castello; and he promised to begin work this morning, proceeding without interruption to the close.
- In a letter of Jacomo Delli Thebaldi to Duke Alfonso of Ferrara, From Venice, April 22, 1518; as quoted by J.A.Y. Crowe & G.B. Cavalcaselle in Titian his life and times - With some account..., publisher John Murray, London, 1877, p. 182-183
- Jacomo Thebaldi was for years an art-agent for Titian in Venice
- We thought, that Titian, the painter, would some day finish our picture; but he seems to take no account of us whatever. We therefore instruct you to tell him instantly, that we are surprised that he should not have finished our picture; that he must finish it under all circumstances or incur our great displeasure; and he may be made to feel that he is doing an ill turn to one who can resent it. We are determined that he shall complete the work he promised : if he does not, we shall see to his doing it, and you are to advise us instantly of his resolution.
- Duke Alfonso de Ferrara, in a letter to Titian's art agent Jacomo Thebaldi, 29 September 1519; as quoted by J.A.Y. Crowe & G.B. Cavalcaselle in Titian his life and times - With some account..., publisher John Murray, London, 1877, p. 184
- Duke Alfonso was rather furious that Titian didn't finish his ordered painting, despite he promised to do so
- The canvas of the naked Venus sleeping in a landscape with a small Cupid, was by the hand of Zorzo da Castelfranco, but the landscape and the Cupid were finished by Titian.
- It is a custom of this city [Venice] that the Prince [The Doge] when in office should do three things: procure his own likeness of life size  to be placed in a certain lunette beneath the ceiling of the Hall of Great Council, and for this Titian had a salary...
- Sansovino, in 'Cose Notabile', c. 1537, p. 47; as quoted by J.A.Y. Crowe & G.B. Cavalcaselle in “Titian his life and times - With some account of his family, chiefly from new and unpublished records”, publisher John Murray, London, 1877, p. 163
- Titian, now I clearly see in a new guise
My belovèd idol, opening her eyes.
- Titian was visited on a certain occasion by a company of German travelers.. ..these gentlemen declared that they only knew of one master capable of finishing as they thought paintings ought to be finished, and that was Dürer.. ..To these observations Titian smilingly replied, that if he had thought extreme finish to be the end and aim of art, he too would have fallen into the excesses of Dürer. But though long experience had taught him to prefer a broad and even track to a narrow and intricate path, yet he would still take occasion to show that the subtlest detail might be compassed without sacrifice of breadth, and so produced the 'Christ of the Tribute Money'.
- Francesco Scanelli in his II Microcosmo della Pittura, 8vo, Cesena, 1655, pp. 231-4; as quoted by J.A.Y. Crowe & G.B. Cavalcaselle in “Titian his life and times - With some account …”, publisher John Murray, London, 1877, p. 117-118
- Scanelli had consulted an old and respectable friend of Titian, who told him this story
- Although Titian's works seem to many to have been created without much effort, this is far from the truth and those who think so are deceiving themselves. In fact, it is clear that Titian retouched his pictures, going over them with his colours several times, so that he must obviously have taken great pains. The method he used is judicious, beautiful, and astonishing, for it makes pictures appear alive and painted with great art, but it conceals the labour that has gone into them.
- Titian, having adorned Venice, or rather all Italy and other parts of the world, with excellent paintings, well merits to be loved and respected by artists, and is in many things to be admired and imitated also, as one who has produced, and is producing, works of infinite merit; nay, such as must endure while the memory of illustrious men shall remain.
- Giorgio Vasari in 'Titian of Cadore', in Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects as translated by Mrs. Jonathan Foster (1852), p. 402
- [Titian] painted the panel for the altar of 'Saint Peter Martyr' in the church of SS Giovanni and Paolo, making the figure of the holy martyr larger than life among enormous trees in a wood, where, having fallen to the ground, he is savagely assaulted by a soldier who has wounded him in the head in such a way that his face, as he lies these half alive, shows the horror of death, while in the figure of another friar who is in flight the terror and fear of death can be recognized. In the air are two nude angels coming from a light in heaven which illuminates the unusually beautiful landscape as well as the entire work; this is the most accomplished and celebrated, the greatest and best conceived and executed of the works that Titian completed during his whole lifetime.
- Giorgo Vasari, in 'Life of Titian', The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, Florence, 1568; as quoted in Titian and Venetian Painting, 1450-1590, Bruce Kohl; publisher Westview Press, 1999, p. 118
- Saint Peter Martyr was a thirteenth century Dominican from the city of Verona. His severe persecution of heretics caused them to finally murder him in a woods near Milan. As he died, Saint Peter forgave his killers and, with his own blood, wrote on the ground "I believe in God."
- Titian painted two pictures in the Hall of Great Council [of Venice], one of the Pope setting his foot on the neck of Barbarossa, the other of a fight ['The Battle' ] which was done [by Titian] later.
- Sansovino, in Delle Cose Notabile della Citta di Venetia, 1586, p. 35, as quoted by J.A.Y. Crowe & G.B. Cavalcaselle in Titian his life and times...., publisher John Murray, London, 1877, p. 168
- Titian agreed in 1513 to paint the 'Battle' in the Hall of the Great Council. Sharp monitions reminded him in 1518, 1522 and 1537 that he must complete the work; he did in 1539. The large painting is destroyed later by fire
Quotes - 18th century
- Raphael and Titian are two names which stand the highest in our art, — one for drawing, the other for painting. It is to Titian we must turn our eyes to find excellence with regard to color, and light and shade, in the highest degree. He was both the first and the greatest master of this art. By a few strokes he knew how to mark the general image and character of whatever object he attempted; and produced, by this alone, a truer representation than his master Giovanni Bellini, or any of his predecessors, who finished every hair. His great care was to express the general color, to preserve the masses of light and shade, and to give by opposition the idea of that solidity which is inseparable from natural objects. When those are preserved, though the work should possess no other merit, it will have in a proper place its complete effect; but where any of these are wanting, however minutely labored the picture may be in detail, the whole will have a false' and even an unfinished appearance, at whatever distance, or in whatever light, it can be shown.. ..This manner was then new to the world, but that unshaken truth on which it is founded has fixed it as a model to all succeeding painters; and those who will examine into the artifice will find it to consist in the power of generalizing, and in the shortness and simplicity of the means employed.
- Many artists, as Vasari likewise observes, have ignorantly imagined they are imitating the manner of Titian when they leave their colours rough, and neglect the detail: but not possessing the principles on which he wrought, they have produced what he calls goffe pitture, absurd, foolish pictures; for such will always be the consequence of affecting dexterity without science, without selection, and without fixed principles.
- Sir Joshua Reynolds, in 'The Eleventh Discourse', originally an address to the Royal Academy of Art (10 December 1782)
Quotes - 19th century
- It is the intense personal character which, I think, gives the superiority to Titian's portraits over all others, and stamps them with a living and permanent interest. Of other pictures you tire, if you have them constantly before you; of his, never. For other pictures have either an abstracted look, and you dismiss them, when you have made up your mind on the subject as a matter of criticism; or an heroic look, and you cannot be always straining your enthusiasm; or an insipid look, and you sicken of it. But whenever you turn to look at Titian's portraits, they appear to be looking at you; there seems to be some question pending between you, as though an intimate friend or inveterate foe were in the room with you; they exert a kind of fascinating power; and there is that exact resemblance of individual nature which is always new and always interesting, because you cannot carry away a mental abstraction of it, and you must recur to the object to revive it in its full force and integrity. I would as soon have Raphael's, or most other pictures, hanging up in a collection, that I might pay an occasional visit to them: Titian's are the only ones that I should wish to have hanging in the same room with me for company!
- William Hazlitt, in 'On a Portrait of An English Lady, by VanDyck', in Criticisms On Art (1844), p. 155
- We find the following words:— "Whether it is the human figure, and animal, or even inanimate objects, there is nothing, however unpromising in appearance, but may be raised into dignity, convey sentiment, and produce emotion, in the hands of a painter of genius. What was said of Virgil, that he threw even the dung about the ground with an air of dignity, may be applied to Titian; whatever he touched, however naturally mean, and habitually familiar, by a kind of magic he invested with grandeur and importance." —No, not by magic, but by seeking and finding in individual nature, and combined with details of every kind, that grace and grandeur and unity of effect which Sir Joshua supposes to be a mere creation of the artist's brain! Titian's practice was, I conceive, to give general appearances with individual forms and circumstances. Sir Joshua's theory goes too often, and in its prevailing bias, to separate the two things as inconsistent with each other, and thereby to destroy or bring into question that union oi striking effect with accuracy of resemblance, in which the essence of sound art (as far as relates to imitation) consists.
- William Hazlitt, in 'On Certain Inconsistencies in Sir Joshua Reynolds Discourses', in Criticisms On Art (1844), p. 66
- There is nothing strained or repulsive in his character. His letters to princes and to ministers concerning his pictures and his pensions contain that degree of humility which then denoted the savoir-vivre of a subject. He takes men well and he takes life well; that is to say, that he enjoys life like other men, without either excess or baseness. He is no rigorist; his correspondence with Aretino reveals a boon companion, eating and drinking daintily and heartily, appreciative of music, of elegant luxury, and the society of pleasure-seeking women. He is not violent, nor tormented by immeasurable and dolorous conceptions; his painting is healthy, exempt from morbid questionings and from painful complications; he paints incessantly, without turmoil of the brain and without passion during his whole life. He commenced while still a child, and his hand was naturally obedient to his mind. He declares that "his talent is a special grace from heaven;" that it is necessary to be thus endowed in order to be a good painter, for otherwise "one cannot give birth to any but imperfect works;" that in this art "genius must not be agitated." Around him beauty, taste, education, the talents of others, reflect back on him as from a mirror the brightness of his own genius.
- Hippolyte Taine, Italy: Rome and Naples; Florence and Venice (1871)
- It was the habit of Titian to paint pictures for the places they were intended to fill, and in this he fol- lowed the traditions of all the schools. Sketching and laying in the subjects so far as he was able in his workshop at home, he took the canvas to the spot in which it was to hang, and finished it there.
- J.A.Y. Crowe & G.B. Cavalcaselle in: Titian his life and times - With some account of his family, chiefly from new and unpublished records; publisher John Murray, London, 1877, p. 174
- When Titian or Tintoret look at a human being, they see at a glance the whole of its nature, outside and in; all that it has of form, of color, of passion, or of thought; saintliness, and loveliness; fleshly body, and spiritual power; grace, or strength, or softness, or whatsoever other quality, those men will see to the full, and so paint, that, when narrower people come to look at what they have done, every one may, if he chooses, find his own special pleasure in the work. The sensualist will find sensuality in Titian; the thinker will find thought; the saint, sanctity; the colourist, colour; the anatomist, form; and yet the picture will never be a popular one in the full sense, for none of these narrower people will find their special taste so alone consulted, as that the qualities which would ensure their gratification shall be sifted or separated from others; they are checked by the presence of the other qualities which ensure the gratification of other men. Thus, Titian is not soft enough for the sensualist, — Correggio suits him better; Titian is not defined enough for the formalist, — Leonardo suits him better; Titian is not pure enough for the religionist, — Raphael suits him better; Titian is not polite enough for the man of the world,— Van Dyke suits him better; Titian is not forcible enough for the lover of the picturesque,— Rembrandt suits him better. All are great men, but of inferior stamp, and therefore Van Dyke is popular, and Rembrandt is popular, but nobody cares much at heart about Titian; only there is a strange under-current of everlasting murmur about his name which means the deep consent of all great men that he is greater than they — the consent of those who, having sat long enough at his feet, have found in that restrained harmony of his strength there are indeed depths of each balanced power more wonderful than those separate manifestations in inferior painters: that there is a softness more exquisite than Correggio's, a purity loftier than Leonardo's, a force mightier than Rembrandt's, a sanctity more solemn even than Raphael's.. ..There are three Venetians that are never separated in my mind — Titian, Veronese, and Tintoret. They all have their own unequalled gifts, and Tintoret especially has imagination and depth of soul which I think renders him indisputably the greatest man; but, equally indisputably, Titian is the greatest painter; and therefore the greatest painter who ever lived.
- John Ruskin, in Art Culture : A Hand-Book of Art Technicalities and Criticisms (1877), p. 9
- There is no greater name in Italian art — therefore no greater in art — than that of Titian. If the Venetian master does not soar as high as Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo, those figures so vast, so mysterious, that clouds even now gather round their heads and half veil them from our view; if he has not the divine suavity, the perfect balance, not less of spirit than of answering hand, that makes Raphael an appearance unique in art, since the palmiest days of Greece; he is wider in scope, more glowing with the life-blood of humanity, more the poet-painter of the world and the world's fairest creatures than any one of these.
- Claude Phillips, in "Earlier Works Of Titian" (1897) Introduction, p. 5
- Other Venetians may, in one or the other way, more irresistibly enlist our sympathies, or may shine out for the moment more brilliantly in some special branch of their art; yet, after all, we find ourselves invariably comparing them to Titian, not Titian to them, taking him as the standard for the measurement of even his greatest contemporaries and successors. …
He is the greatest painter of the sixteenth century, just because, being the greatest colorist of the higher order, and in legitimate mastery of the brush second to none, he makes the worthiest use of his unrivaled accomplishment, not merely to call down the applause due to supreme pictorial skill and the victory over self-set difficulties, but, above all, to give the fullest and most legitimate expression to the subjects which he presents, and through them to himself.
- Claude Phillips, in Early Work Of Titian (1897), p. 34
Quotes - 20th century
- Thus, Titian is not soft enough for the sensualist, —Correggio suits him better; Titian is not defined enough for the formalist, —Leonardo suits him better; Titian is not pure enough for the religionist, —Raphael suits him better; Titian is not polite enough for the man of the world, —Vandyke suits him him better; Titian is not forcible enough for the lover of the picturesque, —Rembrandt suits him better.
- John Ruskin in Master Painters Titian, From the works of John Ruskin'; published by Hodder & Stoughton, London, United Kingdom, 1911, p. 14-15
- Titian's supremacy above all the other Venetians, except Tintoret[to] and Veronese, consists in the firm truth of his portraiture, and more or less masterly understanding of the nature of stones, trees, men, or whatever else he took in hand to paint; so that, without some correlative understanding in the spectator, Titian's work, in its highest qualities, must be utterly dead and unappealing to him.
- John Ruskin in Master Painters Titian, From the works of John Ruskin'; published by Hodder & Stoughton, London, United Kingdom, 1911, p. 13
- This is to show the world that I can paint like Titian. [A big drawing of a rectangle] Only technical details are missing.
- Wolfgang Pauli, in a reaction to Werner Heisenberg's claim that a unified field theory had been found, but the technical details were missing, in a letter to George Gamow (1958); as quoted in Hyperspace : A Scientific Odyssey through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension (1995) by Michio Kaku, p. 137
Quotes - 21st century
- Titian, Tintoretto, and Paul Veronese absolutely enchanted me, for they took away all sense of subject.. ..It was the poetry of color which I felt, procreative in its nature, giving birth to a thousand things which the eye cannot see, and distinct from their cause.
- Washington Allston, as quoted in The Quotable Artist (2002) by Peggy Hadden, p. 20
- The Titian Foundation
- Titian's paintings
- Titian's Pieta at arthistorylessons.net
- Tiziano Vecellio at Web Gallery of Art
- Christies' sale blurb for the recently restored 'Mother and Child'
- A closer Look at the Madonna of the Rabbit
- The Early Work of Titian by Malcolm Bell,
- Titian at Panopticon Virtual Art Gallery