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Video transcript

we're in the Academy in Venice standing in front of a very late Titian in fact a painting so late in his life that not only did he intend it for his own tomb but it was unfinished at his death and parts of it were finished by another artist after ditions death we have some evidence that the angel holding the large candle may have been added by that later artist the painting was intended for his tomb in the Church of the Ferrari here in Venice that Titian painted two other great paintings for his asunto or the Assumption of the Virgin and also his Pizarro Madonna so this was a church that he was very familiar with that he had a relationship with and where he is buried although there was a dispute so this painting was not added this is a pietà which was a rare subject for Titian and we think that it would have been on the right wall so you would have approached it at an angle and it helps to explain the composition and that's true generally for Titian work that he was very aware of the approach of the viewer toward the painting in the way in which the figures depicted related to the viewer well look at the composition of this painting you have a very stable architectural form in the middle and that might well create a sense of stability but intuitions hands it doesn't because he's got this wonderful diagonal that moves up from the lower right corner through the figure that is draped in red that some art historians think maybe st. jerome through the shoulders of christ to mary wearing blue finally to mary magdalene who stands and then that line is kind of stopped by her right hand and she strides forward toward us although she looks away from us some art historians think that the figure st. jerome who's kneeling and grasping the hand of christ looking up at Christ and Mary may be a portrait of Titian himself and Titian does appear we think in the Pieta in a painting within the painting that we see on the lower right there's a small image of two figures praying toward a pietà and that's stacked right over the family crest which you can see just below that canvas so that identification with Titian and the Sun is pretty certain so this is personal image for the artist it's clear that Titian often worked on paintings for long periods of time returning to them again again which is something you can do with oil paint but to me it makes sense that you might not finish a painting that's destined for your own tomb the forms that frame the central figures are enormous and powerful on the left you see Moses holding the laws holding the staff that he'll strike a rock with to create a spring miraculously on the right you see a sculpture of a pagan holding a cross so Moses from the Old Testament the Sibyl figure from classical antiquity who prophesied the coming of Christ and so therefore she holds a cross and these two figures represented a sculpture because they are from the older pagan and Jewish traditions petition also refers to his own history much more directly in this painting in the center that is this massive piece of architecture this apse we can see this rusticated masonry and broken pediment at the top but inside you see this concave space with a mosaic at its top that reminds us of the mosaics in San Marco in Venice that were referred to the innings of Giovanni Bellini the great Venetian artists that came before Titian these were formative paintings for Titian zone early career and here in his last year's he refers back to this history although the painting is unfinished we do get a sense of how oil paint allowed Titian and other Venetian artists to work on paintings over a long period of time to be expressive with their brushwork to have a sense of immediacy and individuality in that brushwork to create forms that were open that lack a kind of finality that's right this painting feels mutable it feels as if Titian might have continued to push the paint and that form might resolve or in some places continue to dissolve part the power of this painting has to do with the fact that it is represented at night but it allows Titian to have these figures these forms emerge out of darkness the light almost seems to emerge from Christ there is that interest in spiritual light that's is something we see in the work of Titian going back to his other paintings in the Ferrari like the Assumption the figures are life-size the painting itself is probably about ten feet high this is still though a very intimate and personal image