If any artist could achieve genuine poetry in his or her work, then it is surely Titian.
The artist’s sense of the dramatic, his storytelling ability, his mastering of composition, and his ability to capture the atmospheric, the luminous and the enchanted, all speak of the man’s remarkable abilities as a poet.
These abilities seldom come more magnificently together than during his series of paintings of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Now, for the first time in over four centuries the National Gallery have reunited five of the six painting in the commission for their new exhibition, Titian: Love, Desire, Death. The sixth painting, which is a short walk away at The Wallace Collection, cannot be loaned out for legal reasons.
The paintings were commissioned by Prince Philip of Spain in 1155. Seeking a painter with the skill to transform Ovid’s classical myths into paintings, Philip chose to Titian.
Then at the height of his powers, the artist was the perfect choice for the commission. The rich source material allowed Titian to indulge his obvious gift for storytelling, weaving rich incident and drama into the resulting canvases.
Titian even referred to the works as his ‘poesie’, with the term suggesting that the artist considered the works as a form of visual poetry.
The Metamorphoses are a series of poems which chronicle the history of the world from the creation right up to the point where Julius Caesar becomes Roman emperor.
Titian turned the stories into meticulously realised worlds, populated by magnificent Gods, albeit ones who displayed all the anger, jealousy, rage and grief of mere mortals.
Without any indication from King Philip over which of Ovid’s tales to use, Titian made the decision himself, choosing the stories of Venus and Adonis, Europa, Perseus and Andromeda, Danaë, Diana and Callisto and Diana and Actaeon.
Up until now the six works have hung in a variety of collections in places like Boston, Madrid, and London. However, the National Gallery have reunited the works for what promises to be one of the exhibitions of the year.
Titian: Love, Desire, Death will be at the National Gallery from the 8th of July 2020 until the 17th of January 2021 . For more information on the exhibition, please click here.
For information on other exhibitions in London, please click here.