Sacred Conversation by Tiziano Vecellio

Circa 1513

Sacra Conversazione (1513 circa) by Tiziano VecelioFondazione Magnani-Rocca

The artist

Having followed an educational path of exquisitely venetian background, Titian met the pictorial art in the Giorgione’s studio, after a brief formation period with Giovanni and Gentile Bellini. 

Starting from the 1520s, the artist entered into relation with the most important Italian and European court : a magistral example of such portraiture on commission is represented by the “Charles V on horseback”, now at the Prado Museum in Madrid.

The bright Renaissance coloristic finesse of the first titianesque works, to whom this “Holy Conversation” properly belongs, gave way, starting from the 50s, to a grater drama, characterized by dynamic and mellow brushstrokes.

The scene

Coming originally from the Balbi Palace in Genoa and bought by Luigi Magnani in 1962, this painting (1513 ca) constitutes an important testimony of the young Titian which “clears entirely Giorgione’s timidity” (R. Longhi). 

The artwork depicts the five characters involved in a devotional game of glances, a psychological dialogue which bonds them and provide the composition with circular unity.

The light incarnate and the dresses’ bright and elegant colors of the three characters on the left side stand out against the dark backdrop. 

The landscape is rendered with an almost Flemish precision: some trees and a group of rustic houses with a tower sprout from the green slope on the right. The horizon line kindly fades in a band of golden clouds that swell up in the crepuscular sky.

On the right, such relation is reverted: the black cape of the donor and of the St. Dominic’s one stand out on the saint’s candid tunic and on the background landscape.

It is also noteworthy the angelic elegance of the blonde Saint Catherine: the light purple vest, thinly edged in gold, is matched with the dark green of the cape which falls on her shoulders, landing on the underlying classical architrave.

The pictorial technique

Titian’s chromatic classicism, criticized by Michelangelo himself for the lack of drawing, marked the pictorial revolution perpetrated by the Cadore painter:

the personal usage of the material color and the search for luminist effects, initiated by Giorgione and Bellini, made him one of the greatest artists of his time, point of reference, among others, of Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt and Goya. 

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