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

Pope Paul III with his Grandsons Alessandro and Ottavio Farnese

Oil on canvas, 210 x 174 cm
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

According to Vasari this painting was commissioned by the Farnese family in 1546. Titian arrived to Rome in 1545 and he met there several cardinals and artists and he was even received by Pope Paul III.

A few decades earlier, Pope Leo X (1475-1521), who was a great patron of Pope Paul III, was also portrayed by Raphael with two of his relatives, his nephews Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de Rossi. Giulio later became Pope Clement VII. The political allusion to this painting is clear in Paul III's decision to be portrayed with two of his younger relatives. In terms of composition, though, Titian is scarcely influenced by Raphael. He finds his own subtle means of expressing the political claims of Paul III.

Titian shows the old, stooped pope grasping the armrest with his left hand, and he gives the pontiff a wily expression quite at odds with the conventions of state portraiture. The free movement of the models - quite unusual in contemporary portrait paintings - contributes to the extraordinary qualities of this group portrait.