Titian: Love, Desire, Death – A Mythical Reunion

Priscilla Indrayadi

This year, the National Gallery strikes again with their extraordinarily awaited and praised exhibition, Titian: Love, Desire, …

The entrance of the exhibition; a zoomed image from “Diana and Callisto.”

This year, the National Gallery strikes again with their extraordinarily awaited and praised exhibition, Titian: Love, Desire, Death. For the first time in centuries, Titian’s masterpieces are once again reunited in the Main Floor Galleries of the Sainsbury Wing of the historical museum. The exhibition includes works that Titian had painted during the plague of the Renaissance, which makes it quite fitting that it is showcased during a time of difficulty that we ourselves are facing.

As one of the most celebrated Renaissance painters in Western art history, Titian regarded the collection of works as poesie, which is Italian for poetry, drawing from Ovid’s infamous Metamorphoses. The Venetian artist painted the poesie collection starting from 1551 to 1562 for the King of Spain at the time, Philip of Habsburg. This agreement allowed for Titian to express his artistic interpretations of the Classical poems following his masterly skills. Obliging to King Philip’s delight in women and fascination in hunting, the paintings produced reflected this through its profound eroticism, however, maintaining grace and sentiment throughout the whole series.

Introduction to the exhibition. An explanation on how and why Titian started painting on Metamorphoses.

Although the Renaissance was mostly known for the incline of rationality and intellectual inquiry, Titian’s poesie has brought back the attention to the human senses, linking sensual passion to scandalous violence. This attention continues to live on in the presence, never ceasing to lose its significance in the busyness of the world we live in today.

With only seven paintings, it is hard to believe that an exhibition could be as magnificent as it is. The seven artworks include: “Danae”, “Diana and Acteon”, “Venus and Adonis”, “The Rape of Europa”, “Perseus and Andromeda”, “Diana and Callisto”, “The Death of Acteon”, all in which tell the mythological tales written in Metamorphoses.

Through the paintings, we can see the conversations within them, highlighting the encounters between the mortal and the divine. Titian’s body of work combines the fluidity of movement with the fixation of supreme fervour. Apart from this, contrasting the ever growing development of science and technology, the Old Master brings back the importance of nature to the audience. Other than the human natures of love, desire, and death, Titian emphasises on water and earth, clearly displaying them through the narratives of his paintings, especially in “Perseus and Andromeda” and “Diana and Acteon”.

The sky and earth, the waves and landscapes, the mortal and divine, the beauty and trauma, the love and lust, the life and death–all comes in favour of the magic of Titian’s brilliance. Titian has never become so relatable in our everyday lives, and just like that, a bond has been established between him and us.



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