Wednesday, November 5, 2014

171. Titian in Urbino

On Wednesday 8 October a bus brought us from Pesaro to Urbino, the city that is well-known for its Renaissance buildings and steep roads and alleys. The Palazzo Ducale (its origins go back to the fifteenth century) became a centre for the arts during the reign of Federico da Montefeltro (1422-1482). Nowadays, it houses the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche. There are two paintings by Titian who occasionally visited Urbino.
Wall in Urbino (October 2014) [© Ton Leenhouts]
Ricketts, in his book on Titian lists both works, and briefly describes one of them. He did not visit Urbino and probably saw photographs of 'Resurrection' ['Resurrezione', according to the museum's caption] and 'Last Supper' ['Ultima Cena']; both are reproduced in his book.

Room with paintings by Titian, Palazzo Ducale, Urbino (October 2014)
Ricketts wrote:

Between the years 1542 and 1544 Titian executed the two pictures, the 'Resurrection' and the 'Last Supper,' which still remain at Urbino, The 'Resurrection' (Plate LXXXIX) shows elements of affinity with the great 'Ecce Homo' now at Vienna, the shield-bearer in both pictures being similar in pose.
(Titian, 1910, page 102).

Titian, 'Last Supper' and 'Resurrection' (Urbino) 
More famous than the Titians that are now in Urbino are the paintings that were moved to other cities, especially Florence. In the Uffizi one finds the 'Venus of Urbino', a reclining nude woman. This work was commissioned by Guidobaldo II della Rovere, the Duke of Urbino. Ricketts gave a long description of this painting of a woman 'dressed only in a bracelet', but he found that 'To me there is something tiresome in the arrangement of this stately and famous nude, in the "ornate simplicity" and the sumptuous realism of the background' (page 92). 

At the time Ricketts saw it, it was hanging too high in the Uffizi, and 'If we can trust our eyesight, the magic the painting may have once possessed has left it'. To him it is a 'rather academic' picture: 'This Venus or courtesan seems to have taken off her clothes in a mood of boring ostentation, and it has pleased the public to detect purity, or maybe 'Lascivia,' in a work which remains a handsome and magisterial performance, or exercise in the fine arts'.

Titian, 'Venus of Urbino' (Florence)
Next week, another Venus by Titian.