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

Polyptych of the Resurrection

Oil on canvas, 278 x 122 cm
Santi Nazaro e Celso, Brescia

The Polyptych of Resurrection in SS Nazzaro e Celso in Brescia was commissioned by Altobello Averoldi, papal legate to Venice, in 1518/19. The format of five panels is old-fashioned, but the dynamic relation between Christ and St Sebastian, predicting the triumph of both, anticipates the Baroque. Titian openly vies with sculpture in the two main figures, taking inspiration from the recently discovered Hellenistic statue of Laocoon and - in the case of Sebastian - one of the slaves from Michelangelo's tomb for Julius II.

Titian's impulse to capture bold bodily movements is not easily accommodated within the traditional structure of a polyptych, which necessitated depicting different pictorial elements on a number of panels. It is certain that this antiquated form was used the request of the client, the papal legate Altobello Averoldi. He is depicted (bottom left panel) with the patron saints of the church, St Nazaro and St Celso, to whom he donated the altar.

New Mannerist tendencies are also apparent here, possibly transmitted to Titian through the work of Pordenone, and these elements subtly contribute to the dramatic intensity of the work. The landscape background is of the very highest quality, with recognizable view of Brescia.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 22 minutes):
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina: Missa brevis