The most cherished possession of the Frari is, I suppose, the tomb of Titian. It is not a very fine monument, dating from as late as 1852, but it marks reverently the resting-place of the great man. He sits there, the old painter, with a laurel crown. Behind him is a relief of his “Assumption”, now in the Accademia; above is the lion of Venice. Titian’s work is to be seen throughout Venice, either in fact or in influence, and all the great cities of the world have some superb creation from his hand, London being peculiarly fortunate in the possession of his “Bacchus and Ariadne”. Standing before the grave of this tireless maker of beauty, let us recall the story of his life. Titian, as we call him—Tiziano Vecellio, or Vecelli, or Tiziano da Cadore, as he was called by his contemporaries—was born in Cadore, a Venetian province. The year of his birth varies according to the biographer. Some say 1477, some 1480, some 1487 or even 1489 and 1490. Be that as it may, he was born in Cadore, the son of a soldier and councillor, Gregorio Vecelli. As a child he was sent to Venice and placed under art teachers, one of whom was Gentile Bellini, and one Giovanni Bellini, in whose studio he found Giorgione. And it is here that his age becomes important, because if he was born in 1477 he was Giorgione’s contemporary as a scholar; if ten years later he was much his junior. In either case there is no doubt that Giorgione’s influence was very powerful. On Titian’s death in 1576 he was thought to be ninety-nine.
[Illustration: THE MADONNA OF THE PESARO FAMILY FROM THE PAINTING BY TITIAN In the Church of the Frari]
One of Titian’s earliest known works is the visitation of S. Mary and S. Elizabeth, in the Accademia. In 1507 he helped Giorgione with the Fondaco dei Tedeschi frescoes. In 1511 he went to Padua. In 1512 he obtained a sinecure in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi and was appointed a State artist, his first task being the completion of certain pictures left unfinished by his predecessor Giovanni Bellini, and in 1516 he was put in possession of a patent granting him a painting monopoly, with a salary of 120 crowns and 80 crowns in addition for the portrait of each successive Doge. Thereafter his career was one long triumph and his brush was sought by foreign kings and princes as well as the aristocracy of Venice. Honours were showered upon him at home and abroad, and Charles V made him a Count and ennobled his progeny. He married and had many children, his favourite being, as with Tintoretto, a daughter, whose early death left him, again as with Tintoretto, inconsolable. He made large sums and spent large sums, and his house was the scene of splendid entertainments. It still stands, not far from the Jesuits’ church, but it is now the centre of a slum, and his large garden, which extended to the lagoon where the Fondamenta Nuovo now is, has been built over.