TIZIANO Vecellio
(b. ca. 1488, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia)

Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple

1534-38
Oil on canvas, 345 x 775 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Titian painted this picture for the Scuola Grande of Santa Maria della Carità, now the Accademia Gallery of Venice. The painting is remarkable for its glowing colours and for the careful depiction of naturalistic detail. The architectural vistas, inspired by stage-sets for the theatre, play a fundamental role in the work. It is evident from this use of perspective and from other stylistic clues that Titian was receptive to the influence of Tuscan-Roman painting.

The painting which occupies the whole of the entrance wall seems to be a 16th century version of the narrative works of Vittore Carpaccio. The painting is composed with a scenographic figural rhythm; on the right at the top of the stairs the priest and his assistants await the tiny figure of Mary who appears even smaller in her halo of holy light against the ponderous architectural background. On the left stands the throng of onlookers most of them outlined against the mountainous background, traditionally supposed to the that of the Marmarole in Cadore. The grandeur of the composition may appear studied and even academic but the painting of the elements which compose it is remarkable for the brilliant richness of the colour and interplay of tone. And amongst the host of individual portraits, each one drawn with a clear and immediate objectivity, we note in particular the four men dressed in togas. In their portrayal, full of monumental solemnity and individual energy, they are typical examples of Titian's value as portraitist of life in the 16th century. His objective observations are very different from the highly individual psychological investigations of Lorenzo Lotto.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 22 minutes):
Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata, BWV 82