Compared with the overall development of Upper Italian painting, Titian’s short Mannerist phase was weaker in its expressiveness, and in early art criticism it received a cool reception, unjustly so from the viewpoint of today. This Ecce Homo, created for the Flemish merchant Giovanni d’Anna, is Titian’s major work of the period. For a long time it was seen primarily as a legendary compendium of contemporary prominent figures:it was thought that Pilate had the features of Pietro Aretino; the magnificently dressed older man in the right foreground was the Venetian doge in office at the time, Pietro Lando; the Ottoman knight behind him was Sultan Süleyman II; and farther to the right is his military opponent, Alfonso d’Avalos (Venice had defeated the Turks at Tunis in 1535). The young woman dressed in white was thought to be Titian’s daughter. In contrast to the art of the southern Netherlands, this scene in which the crowd demands that Christ be put to death (Luke 23:13–25; John 19:13–16) was rarely depicted in Italian painting. The Flemish origin of the client probably explains the unusual choice of subject. Titian’s brilliant stage management focuses all attention on the figure of Christ, even though it has been strikingly placed at the edge of the painting. A young man in complete dismay in the left foreground sets the compositional mood. The soldier seen from the rear leads the viewer’s gaze up the steps to the protagonist. The double-eagle of the Holy Roman Empire on his shield and the signature on the parchment to the right of it with the addition “eques ces[aris]” are a gesture of homage to the imperial court, of which Titian had become the official painter in 1533. Pilate’s indecisive posture points to his ambiguous historical role; his head is turned towards the rude crowd, pressing forward and again directing the viewer’s gaze towards Christ. The soldier clad in dark-redvelvet at the centre of the painting has a transitional function, dosing off the dramatic scene to his left and leading towards the group of curious spectators onhis right.
© Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010


  • Title: Ecce Homo
  • Creator: Tiziano Vecellio, called Titian
  • Date Created: 1543
  • Style: Italian Mannerism
  • Provenance: bought 1649
  • Physical Dimensions: w3610 x h2420 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 73
  • Artist Biography: A biographer related a telling story about Titian: Emperor Charles V once picked up a brush for him, to which Titian responded, "Sire, I am not worthy of such a servant." The Emperor replied, "Titian is worthy to be served by Caesar." Only Michelangelo's closeness with the popes compares. Legend suggests that at age nine Titian began training in Venice. He studied with Bellini, but Giorgione's influence was decisive: Titian's forms became larger, treatment of light subtler, and his mood gentler. In 1516 Titian became painter to the Venetian republic, and in 1533 Charles V named him court painter. Roman painting could match the grandeur of his forms, but Titian's brilliant, expressive color was unprecedented. Titian's portraits combined incisive, sensitive characterizations with an opulent treatment of accessories, eventually developing into the official style that inspired Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and many artists of the 1800s. After 1555 Titian painted mythological works for Philip II of Spain, rising to new heights in creating sensuous flesh, with colors flowing in harmony rather than contrasting boldly as in his youth. What from a distance appear to be magical combinations of form and color prove upon closer inspection to be blobs of paint, thumb marks, and brush scratches. Titian used oil paint for itself, exploring its expressive rather than representational possibilities. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas

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