Blurred outlines that take shape only when viewed from a certain distance,particularly with regards to the motifs in the background, and a colour range fogged by a veil of grey are characteristic of Titian’s late period. The present painting, which is one of the artist’s last works, does not depict a specific scene taken from mythology or literature; its type is the pastoral, which evolved in Venetian art starring in 1500. A “shepherd”, ready to begin playing his flute, has approached the female figure from behind as she rests in the shade of a tree. He turns towards her while she looks over her right shoulder, equivocally smiling at the viewer. The “nymph” is reclining on a panther skin, which along with the goat climbing a barrentree-stump in the background symbolises lust. In the work of other artists as well, the reclining nude seen from the rear is often connected with depictions of Venus. Although the goddess does not set the theme, she adds another aspect of love to the Arcadian scene. Here painting demonstrates its potential to rival poetry. As in the early 16th century, the content is provided by the lyric poetry of the early modern era influenced by Petrarch: its fundamental motif is the desire for an ideal love affair that ultimately cannot be realised. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010


  • Title: Nymph and Shepherd
  • Creator: Tiziano Vecellio, called Titian
  • Date Created: 1570/1575
  • Style: Italian Mannerism
  • Provenance: Collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm
  • Physical Dimensions: w1870 x h1496 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 1825
  • 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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