Tiziano Vecellio, better known only as Titian, was born in Pieve, in the province of Belluno, between the dolomites of Cadore, presumably between 1480 and 1485. On his date of birth the opinions of scholars have always been discordant. According to one of his letters, written in 1571 and sent to King Philip II of Spain, the exact date he would have been aired would be 1477 but there is no doubt that the painter, to obtain a copious payment from the ruler, had increased his age, with the aim of pity him. In error they are probably also those who have followed the biography written by the coeval and friend of the artist Ludovico Dolce, who fixes his birth between 1488 and 1490, intentionally accentuating the precociousness of his art. The same goes for what the authoritative Giorgio Vasari claims in his "Lives", fallacious in placing the date of birth to 1480, contradictory compared to other indications that he gives later on the life of the painter.
He was one of the most important artists of Italian history, admired and studied all over the world. In any case, the family from which Tiziano descends is ancient and very noble, made up of jurisconsult and influential administrators of the Cadore community. His father Gregorio, notary, in addition to the honors of prestigious positions, is also a senior militia officer and supervisor of the mines of the Serenissima. The painter is the second son of the family, composed of five children; the mother is called Lucia.
According to certain sources, deduced from the dates of the artist's works and the commissions given to him, Titian arrives in Venice, then at the height of his splendor and his wealth, when he has not yet turned twenty, at the end of the fifteenth century. The first shop in which it arrives is that of Gentile Bellini, official painter of the Serenissima. After his death, which arrives in 1507, the young artist moves to the workshop of Giovanni Bellini, who takes over from his brother as a court artist.
The context in which the young Cadore painter grows is ideal for his growth. Venice, thanks to the Manuzio family, is the capital of the European press. Furthermore, the Chancellery of San Marco and the School of Logic and Philosophy of Rialto are vital centers of historical, literary and scientific studies, a meeting point for important cultural personalities, not only Italian. In these years, artists such as Leonardo, Dürer and Michelangelo pass through Venice.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century the Venetian figurative art is in constant renewal and Titian can learn this evolution from the best masters of the time, such as Vittore Carpaccio, Giovan Battista Cima from Conegliano, the young Lorenzo Lotto and Sebastiano Luciani then called "del Piombo" and, of course, the great Giorgione from Castelfranco.
In 1503 the first important commission for the Vecellio arrives. Jacopo Pesaro entrusted him with the "Paletta di Anversa", in whose construction many critics saw a more stylistic dependence on the Bellini brothers than on the one who was always defined as the master par excellence of the painter of Pieve, or Giorgione. Therefore, he would have had less influence on him than he had for many centuries. It is possible that his attendance in the workshop of the master arrived around 1505, five years before his death, and that led him to conclude some of the works that Giorgione left unfinished, such as "The Christ and the Manigoldo", "the concert "and" The country concert ". However many other sources disagree on this news, saying that Giorgione loved to work essentially in private, without the help of students and without having his own shop.
The nickname of "new Giorgione" has a validity and justification for Titian. It is established that in 1510, at the death of Giorgio da Castelfranco, Titian was officially called to complete the opera "Venus Sleeper", of Dresden, left unfinished by the master. The details inserted by the young painter are recognizable in the erotic accentuations, evident in the disordered drapery on which the body of the goddess rests. It is a passage of witness tout court, as Tiziano Vecellio collects Giorgione's legacy and continues his work, from this moment on, directing it towards a renewal of the color language that is unprecedented in the history of art.
The first official work that Tiziano performs for the Republic consists of the frescoes on the ground façade of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. The painter did the work between 1507 and 1508. Two years later, in 1510, he became spokesman for the self-congratulation of the city of Venice, performing the "San Marco Altarpiece" for the church of Santo Spirito in Isola and in which San Marco, incarnation of the Serenissima, stands on a throne at the center of the work, highest of all.
The same is true, but in deference to the city of Padua, it can be done for the frescoes that he created for the Scuola di Sant'Antonio, around 1511, and in which the patron saint is the protagonist in the role of thaumaturgist, faithful to the Christian tradition.
In 1513 Titian refused the invitation received from Pietro Bembo, who invited him to move to the Roman court of Leo X. In the same year then, as a testimony of faith for the Serenissima, the painter addressed to the Council of Ten the famous petition in which he offers himself as an official painter of Venice.
In this period the artist approaches the humanistic circles of the city, rich and aristocratic circles of elite which include intellectuals such as Bembo and Leone Ebreo. The translation of the themes debated in these meetings takes place in elitist works, such as the famous "The Three Ages of Man", full of Aristotelianism. The triumph of this moment is the allegory "of the sacred Amor and the profane love".
From the moment he becomes the painter Vate of Venice, Tiziano sees his finances go up more and more, to some extent, according to some, the richest artist in history. In fact, the compensation received by the Republic is equal to one hundred ducats per year. In addition he invests the proceeds in the timber trade of Cadore, necessary to the naval industry of the Republic, and even this operation, in the long run, proves to be a winner.
To celebrate the military victory of Venice, the painter was commissioned a magnificent altarpiece for the high altar of the Franciscan basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. It is the well-known "Assunta", which the artist delivers on May 18, 1518. This work, placed within a monumental marble aedicule and characterized by an unprecedented use of color, marks the beginning of the Titian triumph as regards religious commissions. The altarpieces therefore become their distinctive mark.
Immediately, the Pesaro, his first client, entrusted him with the celebratory realization of the so-called "Pala di Pesaro". It is also the beginning of a series of personal celebratory commissions. Among these, we note above all the shovel with the "Madonna in glory, the saints Francesco and Biagio and the donor Alvise Gozzi", built in 1520.
Beginning in 1523, the year of Andrea Gritti's election to Doge di Venezia, a statement began of the lagoon city, in opposition to Rome and implemented through the arts. The new Doge calls Tiziano to himself, joining him, in an important partnership, the pamphlete Pietro Aretino and the architect Jacopo Sansovino. It is the beginning of a series of self-congratulatory works for Venice. Moreover, from this moment on, the artist of Pieve also begins to perform a series of important portraits for the new Doge Gritti, his great admirer.
In 1525, the painter marries Cecilia, from whom he has already had two sons, Pomponius and Horace. The "Presentation of Mary at the Temple", painted by Vecellio between 1534 and 1538, for the Sala di Albergo of the Scuola Grande of Santa Maria della Carità, is testimony of this historical and artistic moment, in which Venice is the real capital of Italian culture.
Meanwhile, the fame of Tiziano also emerges outside the Venetian borders, affecting the small states of northern Italy. Ferrara and Mantova call him to do some work. For Alfonso d'Este the painter has always produced three canvases of mythological subjects, called "I Baccanali": the "Festa dei amorini", the "Bacco e Arianna" and the "Baccanale degli Andrii". For the Marquis Federico II Gonzaga, the Vecellio instead makes some important portraits.
In 1528, three years after their marriage, his wife Cecilia died. In the '30s, the painter shuttled between Bologna and Urbino, called to paint celebratory works for the rulers of the two cities. He made a portrait of Emperor Charles V during his passage in Bologna, and was appointed by the ruler Conte del Palazzo del Laterano, in 1533. In 1538 he began working on the splendid "Venus of Urbino", for the duke Guidobaldo II della Rovere.
Of 1541 it is instead the delivery to the city of Milan of Alfonso d'Avalos of "The Allocution", while the year before he realized "The crowning of thorns" always for the Milanese city, delivered to the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
In 1545, finally, on October 9th, Titian arrives in Rome, where he is welcomed with great celebrations at the pontifical court. He painted the "Danae" for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese and some portraits for the family of the pontiff, who, the following year, on the occasion of the painter's return to Venice, gave him Roman citizenship.
From 1548 to 1550 and beyond, alternately, the artist begins to follow Philip II in various imperial locations, especially Augusta, performing for him a boundless series of portraits and paintings of various titles, often of religious and mythological subjects. He himself, perhaps for the first time, is portrayed by the painter Lucas Cranach.
In 1559, the magnificent "Martyrdom of San Lorenzo", commissioned by Titian in 1548, was placed on the altar of the Crociferi of the Jesuit Church. In 1564 the painter sent the painting "The Last Supper" to Philip II, while two years later, with Tintoretto and Andrea Palladio, he was elected a member of the Academy of Design in Florence. These are the years in which the artist's fame began to be obscured by that of Jacopo Tintoretto, younger than him and less thirsty for commissions, so much so that he offered many of his works to the Venetian court, often without demanding any fees.
In the early '70s, however, the artist of Pieve still works in the service of Philip II, realizing for him a final famous work, entitled "Philip II offering Victory to the Infant Don Fernando".
Tiziano Vecellio died on 27 August 1576 in his home in Biri Grande, in Venice.