Raphael’s Influence on Titian, 1508-1520Raphael, together with Leonardo, Michelangelo and Titian, was one of the major artists of the Italian Renaissance. Although he passed away when he was only 37, he was a highly influential figure and his works have become synonymous with the High Renaissance style. He was Titian’s senior by only a few years, but he exerted considerable influence on his younger colleague.[i] Due to restrictions of space, here we will be looking only at Raphael’s influence on the early part of Titian’s career. This is a relatively short period from 1508, when Titian became an independent painter, to around 1520, when he completed his first masterpieces. Coincidentally, this period is also important in Raphael’s chronology; it begins with his move from Florence to Rome and ends with his death. Even though the two probably never met,[ii] Titian was very much aware of Raphael’s achievements. One of the first major pieces by Raphael to reach Venice was the cartoon – now lost – for the tapestry depicting the Conversion of Saul (image 1). It was in Cardinal Domenico Grimani’s collection in Venice in 1521 and Titian must have known it directly. From the cartoon he borrowed the pose of Saul for his St Peter in The Death of St Peter Martyr. The painting was commissioned around 1526, but destroyed by fire in 1867. Luckily there were a number of copies and engravings made after the Titian picture (image 2).[iii] However, this was an isolated case. In general terms there were very few works by Raphael in Venice, but knowledge of new ideas, of innovations in iconography and style moved very rapidly throughout Italy. The primary avenues for this were drawings and prints.
1. Workshop of Peter van Aelst [after a design by Raphael], Conversion of St Paul, tapestry, 464 x 533 cm, Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome. 2. Johann Carl Loth [after Titian], Death of St Peter Martyr, oil on canvas, 500 x 306 cm, Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice.Drawings seem to have played an important part in the creation of one of the first works by Titian where we can clearly see Raphael’s influence. This is Titian’s much damaged, early painting Circumcision at the Yale University Gallery in New Haven (probably 1509; image 3). The theme of the panel and its composition were well known in Venetian art at the time (there are a number of examples by Mantegna and especially by Giovanni Bellini and his followers), but the pose of the Child has no precedent in the Venetian context.
3. Titian, Circumcision, oil on panel, 36,8 x 79,4 cm, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.
4. Michelangelo, The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John (Taddei Tondo), marble, 109 cm in diameter, Royal Academy, London. 5. Raphael, The Bridgewater Madonna, oil on canvas transferred from panel, 81 x 55 cm, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.
The inventor of the pose appears to have been Michelangelo, but it was to Raphael that Titian was looking when he painted the Circumcision. The evolution of the pose can be followed from Michelangelo’s Taddei Tondo (c. 1504-1505, Royal Academy, London; image 4),[iv] through a number of Raphael’s Madonna pictures, to its final stage in the Bridgewater Madonna in (c. 1507, Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh; image 5). Raphael slowly modified the Michelangelo motif until he created the double torsion of the Child’s body present in the Edinburgh painting. For intermediate stages of the design see the Terranuova Madonna at the Staatliche Museen in Berlin and the Conestabile Madonna from the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (images 6-7).
6. Raphael, Terranuova Madonna, oil on wood, 87 cm in diameter, Staatliche Museen, Berlin. 7. Raphael, Conestabile Madonna, oil on canvas transferred from wood, 17,5 x 18 cm, Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.
It is highly unlikely that Titian saw any of these pictures. As the first known print of the Bridgewater Madonna dates from the early 18th century (image 8),[v] his knowledge of the pose must have come through any of a number of drawings/studies that Raphael executed during his final years in Florence; such as Virgin and Child with Saint Joseph and a Female Saint (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; image 9), Madonna and Child Compositions and Study of a Twisting Child (both British Museum, London; images 10-11).
8. Nicolas de Larmessin [after Raphael], Madonna and Child, engraving.
9. Raphael, Virgin and Child with Saint Joseph and a Female Saint, red chalk, 15,9 x 12,9 cm, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. 10. Raphael, Madonna and Child Compositions, pen and ink over chalk, 25,3 x 18,3, British Museum, London. 11. Raphael, Study of a Twisting Child, silverpoint, 16,8 x 11,9 cm, British Museum, London.The pose of the Child in the Circumcision picture illustrates a straightforward iconographical borrowing. This is a direct transference of a motif from the work of one painter to another. But this was not the only type of influence exerted by Raphael on young Titian, as witnessed by the Lochis Madonna and Noli me Tangere. In the Lochis Madonna (probably 1510; Accademia Carrara, Bergamo; image 12) the movement of the lively, restless child must have been inspired by Central Italian examples; it is simultaneously flapping its legs while raising his arms to play with the Virgin’s hair. Although the picture cannot be directly tied to a Raphael invention, there are enough similarities between the painting and some of Raphael’s works that a general assessment is possible: it was painted ‘in the manner of Raphael’, the greatest inventor of Virgin and Child compositions in the first decade of the sixteenth century.[vi]
12. Titian, Lochis Madonna, oil on canvas, 38 x 48 cm, Accademia Carrara, Bergamo.The pose of Christ in Titian’s Noli me Tangere (c. 1513, National Gallery, London; image 13), with its spiral twisting motion, was borrowed (in reverse) from the San Giovanni Crisostomo Altarpiece by Sebastiano del Piombo. But when compared to the soldier in Titian’s Rustic Idyll from a few years earlier (probably 1509, Fogg Museum of Art, Cambridge; image 14), it shows a newfound understanding of the dynamic potential of the nude. This novel development in Titian’s art can be linked to his study of Raphael’s examples where the latter was exploring the male figure,[vii] as for instance in the drawing of Three Standing Nude Men from the British Museum (image 15).
13. Titian, Noli me Tangere, oil on canvas, 110,5 x 91,9 cm, National Gallery, London. 14. Titian, Rustic Idyll, oil on panel, 46 x 44 cm, Fogg Museum of Art, Cambridge. 15. Raphael, Three Standing Nude Men, pen and ink over traces over black chalk, 24,3 x 14,8 cm, British Museum, London.These two examples show that Raphael’s works had a profound impact on Titian. His influence went beyond the occasional iconographic borrowing, as the Venetian, after studying Raphael’s art, was able to execute works based on Central Italian compositional structures and syntax. Aside from drawings, printed media helped to keep Titian informed about Raphael’s accomplishments. In this aspect Marcantonio Raimondi was to play a vital role. Born near Bologna and first apprenticed to Francia, he worked principally in Rome. Possibly from around 1510, and certainly from 1511, his engravings of Raphael’s major pieces disseminated the knowledge and the achievements of the master’s work not only throughout Italy, but throughout Europe. Although most of his prints were copies after Raphael’s paintings, it needs to be mentioned that Raphael also created designs which were never meant to be turned into paintings (see text below). Perhaps an early example of Titian gaining knowledge of Raphael’s work via the medium of prints can be found in the Bache Madonna (probably 1512, Metropolitan Museum, New York; image 16). The very composition of the painting, the pose of the Madonna, the placement of her left hand and the way her profile is silhouetted against the dark background, are all reminiscent of Raphael’s Orleans Madonna (around 1506, Musée Condé, Chantilly; image 17). However, Titian’s composition is in reverse. This most likely indicates that a print was involved.
16. Titian, Bache Madonna, oil on canvas, 46 x 56 cm, Metropolitan Museum, New York. 17. Raphael, Orleans Madonna, oil on panel, 32 x 22 cm, Musée Condé, Chantilly.Likewise, Titian’s Virgin and Child with Saints Catherine, Dominic and a Donor shows intimate knowledge of Raphael’s Madonna del Pesce (both pieces are datable to around 1513-1514; images 18-19). In the Titian we see the same motion of the Virgin’s leading arm, and the same arrangement of the figures as in the Raphael picture. Here Marco Dente da Ravenna’s engraving after the Raphael, executed soon after the painting was completed, was of great importance (image 20). Incidentally, it is worth mentioning that the Madonna and Child figure group was later also copied by an unknown Venetian artisan in a woodcut made in Venice in 1517.[viii]
18. Titian, Virgin and Child with Saints Catherine, Dominic and a Donor, oil on canvas, 138 x 185 cm, Fondazione Magnani Rocca, Mamiano, Parma. 19. Raphael and assistants, The Madonna del Pesce, oil on panel transferred to canvas, 215 x 158 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. 20. Marco Dente da Ravenna [after Raphael], Madonna of the Fish, engraving, 262 x 216 mm, The British Museum, London.Another Titian piece that owes much to Raphael’s achievements is the majestic Assumption of the Virgin at the Frari in Venice; Titian’s first real masterpiece (executed 1516-1518; image 21). The forms of the gathered apostles and their heroic proportions resemble those by Raphael found in the Vatican Stanze, while the radiance against which the Virgin is placed can be seen in Raphael’s painting commissioned by Sigismondo de Conti for his Chapel in Santa Maria in Aracoeli in Rome (this is the Madonna di Foligno at the Pinacoteca Vaticana in Rome, a painting which held considerable interest for Titian, see text below, 1511-1512; image 22). Additionally, Joannides has pointed out that the dynamism of Titian’s composition could also stem from Raphael’s design for his Resurrection of Christ, intended for the chapel of Agostino Chigi in Santa Maria della Pace in Rome.[ix] The Assumption scene in the Titian painting could very easily transpose into a Resurrection, with Christ in place of the Virgin and dumbfounded guards in place of the apostles. As Raphael’s Resurrection project did not progress very far, very few studies for it exist today. The best exemplar that illustrates this point is Study for the Resurrection of Christ at the Musée Bonnat in Bayonne (image 23).
21. Titian, Assumption of the Virgin oil on panel, 690 x 360 cm, Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice. 22. Raphael, Madonna of Foligno, oil on panel, 320 x 194 cm, Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome.
23. Raphael, Study for the Resurrection of Christ, pen and ink with touches of red chalk, 40,6 x 27,5 cm, Musée Bonnat, Bayonne.Titian used one more figure from Raphael’s preparatory studies for the Resurrection in his work. This is the figure of a soldier holding a standard or a lance/spear in the lower centre of Study for the Resurrection now at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (image 24). However, as the soldier does not appear in any other study for the Resurrection, it seems to have been further developed independently of the preparation for that painting.[x] It most probably reached Titian by way of Marcantonio Raimondi’s etching of a Standard Bearer (image 25). Titian used it in his woodcut The Triumph of Christ for the figures of both St Christopher and the Good Thief (1517; image 26).[xi]
24. Raphael, Study for the Resurrection, pen over stylus and traces of black chalk, 345 x 262 mm, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. 25. Marcantonio Raimondi, Standard Bearer, engraving, 25,4 x 18,1 cm, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles. 26. Titian and an Anonymous Cutter, The Triumph of Christ, detail showing St Christopher, woodcut in ten blocks, 385 x 2680 mm, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.A final example of Raphael’s influence on early Titian can be found in Madonna in Glory with Child and Saints Francis and Blaise and Donor (commonly referred to as the Gozze Altarpiece, c. 1520; image 27).[xii]
27. Titian,Gozze Altarpiece, oil on panel, 320 x 206 cm, Pinacoteca Civica F. Podesti, Ancona.
28. Marcantonio Raimondi[after Raphael], Madonna and Child, engraving, 157 x 230 mm, Musei Civici di Pavia, Pavia. 29. Marcantonio Raimondi [after Raphael], Madonna and Child, engraving, 16,5 x 12,4 cm, Achenbach Foundation, San Francisco.
The painting is one of three major altarpiece commissions that Titian executed around 1520. Unlike the Assunta in Venice or the Treviso altarpiece (the Malchiostro Annunciation), the prevailing feature in the Ancona painting is the way the composition was created; by masterful manipulation of light, rather than by the presence of voluminous forms and the substances of space. The undulating clouds and the light patches within the luminous sky display Titian’s explorations into the medium of visual sensibility and the effects that could be achieved by the use of coloured light. Although the picture displays a predominantly Venetian idea and feeling for light and colour, the central group of the Madonna and Child can be traced back to Raphael’s Madonna di Foligno. The template for the figure group was provided by another one of Marcantonio Raimondi engravings based on Raphael’s work (images 28-29). This is confirmed by the fact that Titian’s Madonna group is not a direct copy of the Raphael, but instead shows incredible similarity, in the movement of the Virgin and the position of the Child, with some of Raimondi’s engravings.
By the time Titian finished the Gozze painting he had already established himself as the premier painter in Venice. Now he was beginning to build up his reputation outside the confines of the Veneto and the territories of the Venetian colonial empire. However, Raphael’s influence on Titian did not stop here, as even in Titian’s later paintings we can still see traces and even direct borrowings from Raphael’s works. This was especially true after the Venetian’s only trip to Rome, in 1545-1546, when he finally had the chance to see a number of Raphael’s works in person.Bibliography: The Age of Titian, Venetian Renaissance Art from Scottish Collections, P. Humfrey, T. Clifford, A. Weston-Lewis, M. Bury eds. [cat. exh. National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh], National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2004, p. 306-307. Freedberg, S. J., Painting in Italy 1500-1600, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1993. Humfrey, P., Titian, Phaidon Press, New York, 2007. Jaffé, D., ‘Foundations’, in Titian, D. Jaffé ed. [cat. exh. National Gallery, London], National Gallery, London, 2003, pp. 71-73. Joannidies, P., The Drawings of Raphael, With a Complete Catalogue, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1983. -, Titian to 1518, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2001. Landau, D., ‘The Triumph of Christ’, in The Genius of Venice 1500-1600, J. Martineau and C. Hope eds. [cat. exh. Royal Academy of Arts, London], Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1983, p. 319. Late Raphael, T. Henry and P. Joannidies, eds. [exh. cat.Museo National del Prado, Madrid and Louvre, Paris], Madrid, 2012. Rosand, D., and Muraro, M., Titian and the Venetian Woodcut, [exh. cat. National Gallery, Washington], International Exhibition Foundation, 1976. Santi, B., ‘Raphael’, in The Protagonists of Italian Art, Scala, Florence 2001, pp. 322-402. Talvacchia, B., Raphael, Phaidon Press, London, 2007. Titian, Prince of Painters, [exh. cat. Pallazo Ducale, Venice and National Gallery of Art, Washington], Marsilio editori, Venice, 1990. Tiziano, e il ritratto di corte da Raffaello ai Carracci, [cat. exh. Museo di Capodimonte, Naples], Electa, Naples, 2006.