Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Titian in London

Titian - Diana and Actaeon (1556-9) detailStop press: from today, Titian's Diana and Actaeon (1556-9) is on display at the National Gallery in London for one month only, in hope of drumming up a few quid toward the £50m needed to buy it for the nation (title link). Here's a detail I hadn't spotted before: Diana, the original feminist, is being attended by a black slave. Her nymphs share her bath, but not the slave. Looks like apartheid as well as slavery. And if slavery were good enough for a Greek goddess... Plus Diana is out of proportion: her head is too small for her chubby body. Let's flog it to the Italians - Titian was a Venetian master - for twice the Duke's asking price.


At 23/10/08, Blogger Robert said...

Arrr, but it is the white slave who is drying her feet and the Black 'maid/ friend' who is snatching her clothes off and about to pinch her bottom! There are a hundred and one interpretations here Ian!!!

Do you know how many Titians there are in Great Britain on public view? Just how important is it in the art history pecking order? Just how good an example of his work is it?

I will be up in London next month and will try and make up my own mind by seeing it in the flesh! It has some support from the great and good.

50M is a lot to pay from public funds in the present climate and, as you reminded us recently, the very hungry! It would probably be a good place for a banker to put his bonuses after buying a few of mine!

At 24/10/08, Blogger Coxsoft Art said... far as I know there is no mention of a black nymph in Greek mythology. So the black handmaiden is Titian's addition and I reckon the fact that she wasn't allowed to disrobe and share Diana's bath is significant. All the nymphs are naked. How else could Titian tell us she is a slave? Chains? A label? The fat cats had slaves in Titian's time, so I guess he thought it appropriate for a goddess to have a slave to show how important she was.

Diana was the eternal virgin, the most beautiful of all the Greek goddesses. Titian turns her into a flabby matron with a small head! Not one of his best works by a long shot. Now, Bronzino's Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time wow! There's a goddess for you. (National Gallery too; check it out while you're there.)

I think this Titian is more important for its history and royal connections than for the quality of its art. It was part of a set of large panels for the King of Spain. The next panel (last?), which shows Actaeon as a stag being torn to pieces by his own hounds, was in Titian's studio when he died. So Diana and Actaeon may have been his last fully completed work. That must whack it up the art history pecking order.

I haven't a clue how many Titian's are on view in the UK.

Hope you do some good business in London. Have you noticed that another statue of a dead comedian is to be unveiled later today? Les Dawson. Local authorities are falling over themselves to commission statues of dead comedians, in hope of bringing in the tourists. Looks like a nice little earner.


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