The Earlier Work of Titian eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 105 pages of information about The Earlier Work of Titian.
his predecessors, however, he preserved the stimulating charm while abolishing the abruptness of sheer contrast.  This he did mainly by balancing and tempering his dazzling hues with huge architectural masses of a vibrant grey and large depths of cool dark shadow—­brown shot through with silver.  No other Venetian master could have painted the Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine in the church of that name at Venice, the Allegory on the Victory of Lepanto in the Palazzo Ducale, or the vast Nozze di Cana of the Louvre.  All the same, this virtuosity, while it is in one sense a step in advance even of Giorgione, Titian, Palma, and Paris Bordone—­constituting as it does more particularly a further development of painting from the purely decorative standpoint—­must appear just a little superficial, a little self-conscious, by the side of the nobler, graver, and more profound, if in some ways more limited methods of Titian.  With him, as with Giorgione, and, indeed, with Tintoretto, colour was above all an instrument of expression.  The main effort was to give a realisation, at once splendid and penetrating in its truth, of the subject presented; and colour in accordance with the true Venetian principle was used not only as the decorative vesture, but as the very body and soul of painting—­as what it is, indeed, in Nature.

To put forward Paolo Veronese as merely the dazzling virtuoso would all the same be to show a singular ignorance of the true scope of his art.  He can rise as high in dramatic passion and pathos as the greatest of them all, when he is in the vein; but these are precisely the occasions on which he most resolutely subordinates his colour to his subject and makes the most poetic use of chiaroscuro; as in the great altar-piece The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian in the church of that name, the too little known St. Francis receiving the Stigmata on a ceiling compartment of the Academy of Arts at Vienna, and the wonderful Crucifixion which not many years ago was brought down from the sky-line of the Long Gallery in the Louvre, and placed, where it deserves to be, among the masterpieces.  And yet in this last piece the colour is not only in a singular degree interpretative of the subject, but at the same time technically astonishing—­with certain subtleties of unusual juxtaposition and modulation, delightful to the craftsman, which are hardly seen again until we come to the latter half of the present century.  So that here we have the great Veneto-Veronese master escaping altogether from our theory, and showing himself at one and the same time profoundly moving, intensely significant, and admirably decorative in colour.  Still what was with him the splendid exception was with Titian, and those who have been grouped with Titian, the guiding rule of art.  Though our master remains, take him all in all, the greatest of Venetian colourists, he never condescends to vaunt all that he knows, or to select his subjects as a groundwork

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The Earlier Work of Titian from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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