To the year 1545 belongs the supremely fine Portrait of Aretino, which is one of the glories of the Pitti Gallery. This was destined to propitiate the Grand Duke Cosimo of Tuscany, the son of his passionately attached friend of earlier days, Giovanni delle Bande Nere. Aretino, who had particular reasons for desiring to appear before the obdurate Cosimo in all the pomp and opulence of his later years, was obviously wounded that Titian, true to his genius, and to his method at this moment, should have made the keynote of his masterpiece a dignified simplicity. For once unfaithful to his brother Triumvir and friend, he attacks him in the accompanying letter to the Tuscan ruler with the withering sarcasm that “the satins, velvets, and brocades would perhaps have been better if Titian had received a few more scudi for working them out.” If Aretino’s pique had not caused the momentary clouding over of his artistic vision, he would have owned that the canvas now in the Pitti was one of the happiest achievements of Titian and one of the greatest things in portraiture. There is no flattery here of the “Divine Aretino,” as with heroic impudence the notorious publicist styles himself. The sensual type is preserved, but rendered acceptable, and in a sense attractive, by a certain assurance and even dignity of bearing, such as success and a position impregnable of its unique and unenviable kind may well have lent to the adventurer in his maturity. Even Titian’s brush has not worked with greater richness and freedom, with an effect broader or more entirely legitimate than in the head with its softly flowing beard and the magnificent yet not too ornate robe and vest of plum-coloured velvet and satin.
The Visit to Rome—Titian and Michelangelo—The “Danae” of Naples—“St. John the Baptist in the Desert”—Journey to Augsburg—“Venus and Cupid” of the Tribuna—“Venus with the Organ Player” of Madrid—The Altar-piece of Serravalle—“Charles V. at the Battle of Muehlberg”—“Prometheus Bound” and companion pictures—Second Journey to Augsburg—Portraits of Philip of Spain—The so-called “Marques del Vasto” at Cassel—The “St. Margaret”—“Danae” of Madrid—The “Trinity”—“Venus and Adonis”—“La Fede."
At last, in the autumn of 1545, the master of Cadore, at the age of sixty-eight years, was to see Rome, its ruins, its statues, its antiquities, and what to the painter of the Renaissance must have meant infinitely more, the Sixtine Chapel and the Stanze of the Vatican. Upon nothing in the history of Venetian art have its lovers, and the many who, with profound interest, trace Titian’s noble and perfectly consistent career from its commencement to its close, more reason to congratulate themselves than on this circumstance, that in youth and earlier manhood fortune and his own success kept him from visiting Rome. Though his was not the eclectic tendency, the easily