(b. 1782, Bordeaux, d. 1863, Paris)
Charles V Picking up Titian's Paintbrush1808
Oil on canvas, 96 x 129 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux
During his long visit in Augsburg in 1548, Titan had time to become acquainted with Emperor Charles V, leading to a deeper sympathy with him as a man as well as to a better understanding of his aspirations as a ruler. Contemporary observers were highly impressed by the intimacy that a mere painter should have enjoyed with the most powerful man on earth. Titian's seventeenth-century biographer Carlo Ridolfi recounts an anecdote concerning their relationship, which clearly grew out of accurate reports in circulation at the time.
"It is told of Titian that while he was painting the portrait, he dropped a brush, which the emperor picked up, and bowing low, Titian declared: 'Sire, one of your servants does not deserve such an honour.' To this Charles replied: 'Titian deserves to be served by Caesar.'"
This story, which was repeatedly cited by romantics in later centuries, was clearly modelled on Pliny's account of the special favours accorded to the painter Apelles by Alexander the Great.