BASILICA OF THE FRIARS, ASSUMPTION - TITIAN

Audio File length: 2.23
Author: STEFANO ZUFFI E DAVIDE TORTORELLA
English / USA Language: English / USA

The first thing you noticed when you entered the Frari was surely the huge painting of the Assumption on the high altar: over seven meters tall, this "pala", as every painting destined to dominate the altar is called in Italian, was started by Titian in 1516 and placed on the altar on May 18, 1518, a truly memorable day. You can't escape the charm of this masterpiece, which seems to light up the entire basilica with its red shades.

Can you imagine, when Titian got this job, he was only 26 years old?! The work is an explosion of color and action. Many illustrious individuals that have visited the Frari over the centuries have been enthusiastic about this painting. The German writer Hermann Hesse even defined it as "the painting of paintings". You might not even believe this, but the same Franciscan friars were so astonished by the revolutionary nature of this painting that they almost rejected it!

Even if Titian creates a dynamic effect that resembles a vortex, you can easily note that the scene is divided into three distinct parts: the human part below, the passage in the middle, and the divine part above. The Apostles are in the lower part and lift their arms to the sky, energetically gesticulating instead of standing composedly as was usual; the Virgin is in the center between the human and divine world, and ascends to heaven while turning, is supported by a cloud, and is surrounded by a number of angels. Mary has the face of a common woman: her billowing cloak is blown by a divine wind which also raises her tunic, surprisingly showing her nude foot. An intense golden light brightens the upper area, where an old but powerful Eternal Father reaches out toward the Madonna. With this work, Titian immediately captured the spotlight of the art scene: the Assumption is a milestone in art history for its figures' powerful energy, warm and sumptuous colors, and the composition's perfect balance despite the excited gestures and poses.

 

FUN FACT: one of the questions put forth about the Assumption at the time of its inauguration was about the Apostles' poor "decorum": Titian explained that he had used the crude seamen of Chioggia as models, pointing out that many of the first followers of Jesus were in fact fishermen!

 

 

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