Critics believe that many artists have an “old-age” style in their later works. Titian’s style did seem to shift in his mature years from the late 1530s on. His work from this period barely echoes that of his early period. The brushwork was more pronounced and his colors more sweeping. When Michelangelo was fighting his salvation in his old age, Titian seemed to be fighting the canvas and paints creating works that have as much a physical story as a literary one.

Contemporary writers did not shy away from this change in Titian’s work and commented on it throughout their writings. The development of colorito is evident and seemingly goes farther away from disegno than Giorgio Vasari could appreciate. He wishes Titian to stop painting during his older years so that he would not tarnish his own career. Vasari wrote in many of his Lives that artists had an old-age style and an artist’s judgment changes with age, and that for Titian “his last works are executed with such large and bold brush-strokes and in such broad outlines that they cannot be seen from close up but appear perfect from a distance.”[1]

Titian, Portrait of Pietro Aretino, 1545, Florence, Galleria Pitti (image credit to ARTstor)

Pietro Aretino also seemed confused by the change in Titian’s work. In his portrait done by the artist, Aretino believed it to be unfinished. This change of style was revolutionary and important but at this time contemporaries like Aretino saw “this daring application of paint, which re-creates the feeling and sense of the material world rather than minutely describing it, [disturbing], leading him to suggest that Titian had left the painting unfinished,” which he wrote in a letter to Cosimo de’ Medici.[2]

It was not a senile artist who was producing these works; however, it was one who was experimenting and perfecting the medium that had given him much fame.

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[1] Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Artists, Trans. Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella, (New York: Oxford Press, 1998), 508.

[2] Bruce Cole, Titian and Venetian Paintings: 1450-1590, (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999), 139.


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