Monday, November 1, 2010

St Mark Enthroned with Saints

Title: St Mark Enthroned with Saints

Artist: Titian (Tiziano Vecelli)

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Size: 230 x 149 cm

Date: 1510

Location: Santa Maria della Salute, Venice.

All Saints' Day (officially the Solemnity of All Saints), often shortened to All Saints, is a solemnity celebrated on 1 November in Western Christianity in honor of all the saints, known and unknown. In terms of Western Christian theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven.

This altarpiece is a brilliantly colored, luminous work. One of Titian's youthful works, it was probably created either during or shortly after the horrific outbreak of the plague in 1510 for the church of Santo Spirito in Isola to celebrate the end of the plague. Here the four saints who are traditionally invoked for protection from the plague - Saints Cosmas and Damian to the left, Saints Roch and Sebastian to the right - are placed in pairs on each side of where saint Mark, patron saint of Venice, is seated.

A new stylistic direction is evident in the way Titian paints the four standing saints. They have a classical nobility of form and a hieratic air which points to an influence of Giovanni Bellini. However, the saints on the left are given a very realistic sense of individuality, a strong contrast with the almost Giorgionesque reserve of the figures to the right.

An unusual feature is the cloud that casts its shadow over the face of St Mark. This strengthens his identity as an Evangelist, who put the sermons of St. Peter onto paper, creating the Gospel of Mark. It reinforces that it is not he, Mark, who is great, but rather the Word of the Lord.

Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488 – August 1572) better known as Titian, was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was probably a pupil of Giovanni Bellini, and in his early work he came under the spell of Giorgione, with whom he had a close relationship. In 1508 he assisted him with the external fresco decoration of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, Venice, and after Giorgione's early death in 1510 it fell to Titian to complete a number of his unfinished paintings. His free and expressive brushwork revolutionized the oil technique: Vasari wrote that his late works 'are executed with bold, sweeping strokes... The method he used is judicious, beautiful, and astonishing, for it makes pictures appear alive.’

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