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

The Gipsy Madonna

c. 1511
Oil on panel, 66 x 84 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

The first and best known of an early series of Madonnas in a landscape setting is the Gypsy Madonna. This painting got its name from the black hair and pale face of the Madonna, as well as the charming contrast of colours. This type of Madonna, with very dark eyes, is not found in Titian's later works.

In contrast to the remoter Madonnas of Giovanni Bellini, the Gypsy Madonna has a radiating warmth, an expansive physicality, but the composition still derives from a Bellini prototype. In the Bellini, the child faces directly out, and X-rays show this was originally the case with the Titian. They also demonstrate how Titian adhered to the Giorgionesque practice of making radical changes during the painting process. This differed from earlier generations of Venetian artists and central Italian artists, who were more likely to have worked everything out beforehand in preparatory drawings or underdrawing on the support and less likely to make major alterations after starting to paint.