Prince of Painters

Titian, the greatest painter of the Venetian Renaissance, was born about 1488 in Pieve di Cadoro, in the foothills of the Dolomites. He came down to Venice at the age of nine and was apprenticed to the workshops of Gentile and Giovanni Bellini. He wrote letters to his noble patrons, some of them explaining the delay in delivering his work ("It would have reached Spain several months ago had it not been for the tardiness, indisposition, and eventually the death of your secretary"). But very little is known about his personal life.

Giorgio Vasari knew Titian personally and described him as "a most healthy and fortunate man, who has received nothing but favours from heaven. In addition to his genius he possesses the most courtly manners." He was robust, energetic, and immensely productive; devoted to his family; patriotically attached to Venice; reluctant to travel, though he went south to Rome and north to Augsburg; proud of his honors and fame; at ease with the great potentates of his age. He became official painter to the Venetian state as well as to the Emperor Charles V and to his son, Philip II of Spain. In his epic poem Orlando Furioso, Ariosto wrote that "Titian is honored / Not only in Cadore, but also in Venice and Urbino." Like Verdi and Picasso, he produced a series of masterpieces into advanced old age. During the plague of 1576, he died of a fever.

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