TIZIANO Vecellio
(b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia)

Christ and the Adulteress

Oil on canvas, 139 x 182 cm
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

Christ and the Adulteress depicts the gospel story in which Christ was challenged by the Pharisees to condemn a woman caught in the act of adultery. Although formerly widely considered to be by Giorgione, it is now generally held to be by the young Titian. Its revolutionary character is clearly evident when seen against the background of the artistic tradition represented by Giovanni Bellini. Fifteenth-century compositions, even those with narrative subjects, tended to be calm and static. Here, by contrast, poses and gestures are bold and vehement, the figures possess a new physical robustness, and the colours of the draperies are glowingly sensuous. Whereas fifteenth-century pictures were typically painted on the smooth, glassy surface of primed and polished wood, this - like virtually all of Titian's subsequent work - is painted on the more uneven surface of canvas, and the oil paint applied with more visible brushstrokes.

This painting was originally some 50 cm wider than it is now, as is evident from an early copy which shows the additional figure of a man wearing highly fashionable striped hose; the portrait-like head survives as a fragment, also now in Glasgow.