Little else can set the art world buzzing than the manner of a lost masterpiece surfacing from the archive to be enjoyed again by novices and aficionados. Such is the case of Risen Christ, a work presumed from the hand of sixteenth century master Tiziano Vecellio, known as Titian. This image graced the cover of Burlington magazine’s October issue, accompanied by an article from Artur Rosenauer. I do not consider my connoisseurship to match the degreed art expert; nonetheless, I feel I have a small contribution to make on this discussion after reviewing the comparison pieces deliberated in the article.
Opening my book on Titian from the National Gallery, I found a painting that should be considered likewise; Saint Mark Enthroned, 1511-1512; strikingly similar in execution to the newly discovered masterpiece.
Charles Hope states in his essay of Titian’s Life and Times, ”Saint Mark Enthroned probably was painted no earlier than 1511, since it is evidently associated with a plague that turned into an epidemic in that year.” This date is furthermore the time frame attributed to the Risen Christ, with stylistic qualities compared to other dated oil paintings of that period, for your consideration the Miracle of the Newborn Child and Gipsy Madonna. These vivid works are deemed by a broad consensus to date around 1510-11, consequently making them contemporary with Saint Mark Enthroned and the Risen Christ.
Rosenauer’s article discusses the background with comparisons of sky and fauna, given that these examples have some similarities, albeit, their effect is second rate. Titian’s ability to use color defines the space with drama, their contrast an integral part of the picture not a subtle change, one that demands response drawing the viewer deeper into the image. Theodor Hetzer describes Titan’s technique as “… an unbridled contrast of heavy, extended and energized colors, each of which demands independent attention.” Observing these images with their emphasis of color and the signature artist’s style supports the possible attribution by Titian.
My comparison of Saint Mark Enthroned contemplates the grace in the figure of Saint Mark; consider the folds and the fall of the cloth wrapped around his waist; the white shroud symbolizes purity of the figure, which corresponds as a repeated motif in several of Titian’s religious works. Rosenhour states the pictorial type of the full length image was common in northern Italy and Venice at the time. The body style of the figure is repetitive as well, the presentation of the torso is slightly turned in each image, and comparatively the structure of the form is recognizable as Titian’s work. Alessandro Ballarin was the first to examine the painting and justify the evidence of Titian’s hand. Oeuvre repeated through his career would be the aloof facial expression, also evident in Saint Mark, chiefly a Titian trademark.
Painters leave telltale marks in the canvas, the one I emphasize in these paintings second to the torso and the expression, would be the feet. The same rounded emphasis in the shape would be a telltale mark of the same hand, just as a signature would reflect the originator or the forger. However, I am a novice, it is only my artist’s eye that speaks of these qualities in the works discussed here. Any contributions from a more accredited individual would be welcome.
A. Rosenauer: An Unknown Early Work by Titian, Burlington Magazine, October 2013, pgs 660-4.
C. Hope, J. Fletcher, J. Dunkerton, M. Falomir, Titian, National Gallery, London, 2003.
T. Hetzer: Tizian. Geschichte seiner Farbe, Frankfurt am Main 1935, p.66.
O. Pacht: Early Netherlandish Painting from Rogier van der Weyden to Gerard David, London 1997, p.120.
More on Titian at various museums