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Titian chatting about life and art with Giorgione

Titian, A Man with a Quilted Sleeve circa 1510
27 September 2017 0 Comment

Reflections dancing off the water that confuse a visitor but provide safe haven for a local. It could be 1509, but most likely 1510 and Titian finds himself in the Church of San Rocco, kneeling below the small painting “Christ Carrying the Cross” in what might be seen to an onlooker deep in prayer but he was deep in conversation with a friend, long gone, who knew Titian better than any other. His name was Giorgione.

Giorgione – Nice of you to call by Titzy; how’s the gang? Am I missed?

Titian – Life goes on George but yes, you are missed as much by the ladies of Venice as anyone else! Gabriele (Vendramin) is older but still just as inquisitive as ever and he even managed to purchase your Tempest for a song. Even Taddeo (Contarini) managed to pick up your “The Birth of Paris”, “The Underworld with Aeneas and Anchises” and your infuriately mysterious “Three Philosophers” which I wanted for myself but I wasn’t prepared to pay the asking price.

Giorgione – You were always a tight arse Titzy but I knew you had talent, long before that clamoring crowd of intellectual brats realized you did. You should have bought it and learnt from it; I’m not there any more for you to call by the studio and pick my brains. I miss the laughter, the drinking and the music, the big dreams of a great future where anything and everything was possible. And yes I miss the Venetian ladies Titzy; I miss them so much.

Titian – You’re an idiot George. You had it all and you were loved and respected by many. Christ you could have lived off your music alone; people adored your lute playing. Your painting is revered today and Kings and Emperors send envoys here to Venice to try and unearth another lost masterpiece by you. I believe a few of your students churn out the occasional Giorgione.

Giorgione – Fools!!!

Titian – So why did you have to go back into the town when the plague was at its worse George.

Giorgione – She was life itself Titzy and gave me my full dose of it. Her skin was as smooth as the perfect pearl and breasts as firm as a ripe peach and much tastier. She drowned me in the most erotic kisses that made me feel eternal.

Titian – If she gave you life George; she also took it from you. She was riddled with the pestilence and shortly after you were gone to that heinous disease. My friend, my teacher, you are now a shadow, a memory I mumble to in this cold, old Church while those fools around me think I have developed a passion for piety and prayer!!

Giorgione – Christ Titzy, it’s only been a little more than a year and you have your life in front of you and the only passion you have dear friend is for money and I suspect you will make lots of it. What is done is done but I warn you to be careful of that odious disease; it is not done with Venice yet. Not by a long way!

Titian – You should have come with me to Padua and helped me with the frescoes for the School of St. Anthony, away from Venice and out of harm’s way. I pleaded with you to come with me but no; the perfect bum and breasts summoned you to your death. Did you know that Isabella d’Este tried to purchase one of your pieces the silly cow; she knows as much about art as I do about macramé; she ended up with nothing.

Giorgione – Enough about me Titzy; I’m sorry I left you when you are so young but I trust in your talent and your determination. Eventually it will be you and not me that will be remembered. So tell me what you are working on at the moment. Humour me Titzy.

Titian – Well following your advice George and telling me to establish myself and earn a good living first and if I remember correctly you told me I could experiment and unlearn all that I had learnt when I'm an old fart; painting to my heart’s content up to my end; yes I believe that bizarre advice was yours George. In any case I’m doing a portrait. Not my first but it may as well be and certainly my most important so far. I’m enjoying painting it and I find capturing a likeness rather easy. I think there’s good money to be made in portraiture George and I plan to do a lot more.

Giorgione – Really Titzy; tell me it’s not one of those boring, staring me out portraits of some stuck up, rich bastard with the personality of a pot plant and painted accordingly.

Titian – Come on George you know me better than that. In fact I’ve borrowed heavily from what people are now describing as a Giorgionesque allegorical portrait style.

Giorgione – Copying me you mean.

Titian – Hey I only copy from the best but I think you would like this painting George. I’ve sat the figure back into the middle ground with him leaning his right arm on a sort of stone wall that you can just see; I’ll confuse the buggers and write TV on to the wall towards the end. He is only slightly turning towards the viewer with the far side in shadow – I like that feel. The head is titled slightly with a suggestion of arrogance as I see it. A sort of causal unconcern George but totally aware of who he is and his position in society.

Giorgione – A portrait of who Titzy?

Titian – Wait I haven’t told you the best part. The innovative part? I’ve made the magnificent padded sleeve of the sitter’s blue silk doublet the dominant portion of the painting. Bang, right out there and in your face. It’s the fashion George here in Venice called “slashing” with broad pleats of beautiful fabrics that collide into a mess of crumples that terrifies painters when they have to paint that sort of detail; but it doesn’t terrify me. I think there is a lot of money to be made in this sort of portrait painting George and I’m starting with this rather daring piece.

Giorgione – Okay I get it but who is the sitter; and can he afford to pay you?

Titian – I’ve learnt so much from you George and mystery is something that surrounds your work so I’m adding a bit of that to this work. I’ve spread the word about town that the Barbarigo family may have commissioned it and they can certainly afford my work and then some. But the picture is not one of the Barbarigo.

Giorgione – I know the family and I’ve spent several boring evenings in their salon; the women strut about as though their corsets are on too tight and they have horrible teeth and breathe to boot. You are nobody to them Titzy and your career is really just starting so I doubt very much if any one of that stuck up family would sit for you. So who is sitting for this portrait; tell me man!!!!

Titian – You’re right as usual George. The Barbarigo would not sit for me even if I licked their respective arses. But our good friend Ludovico (Ariosto) would and I keep him entertained with good wine and he keeps me entertained with his poetry as I paint. I hope his family like the portrait and buy it because our dear Ludovico is poorer than I am!

Giorgione – Laughing out loud – you clever bastard Titzy of course Ludovico would sit for hours for you as long as you fed him wine. Are you happy with the work?

Titian – It’s a beginning George but I like it. The piece has some of your mystery that asks questions that have dozens of answers; I always liked that about your painting.

Titian turned towards the main door of the church. It swung open and lots of people began to enter. Evening mass already he thought? Already?

Giorgione – And here they come the silly sods all prepared to prostrate themselves before that lying priest. I guess it’s time for you to go?

Titian – Yes George; time to get back to the studio and paint. I miss you my friend.

As Titian rose and walked towards the door he failed to hear his friend’s goodbye. “And I miss you my dear friend. Go and be famous; you will be a great painter Titian.”

 

Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

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