Portrait of a Man in a Red Cap
by TITIAN (Venetian School)
WITH the Venetians as a school, but with Titian in particular, painting ceased
to be the expression of collective religious interests and became a speculative
When royal and wealthy clients displaced the guilds, the great
body of artists followed the only course open to them, and delivered their pic
tures into the hands of agents.
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Titian, one of the shrewdest of painters, faced
the changing conditions with a cold eye, and engaged as his publicity director
Pietro Aretino, who for more than a generation piloted the artist through
diplomatic entanglements and the hazards of royal patronage.
But to Titian’s
credit, it must be said that he never truckled to the blackmailer who repre·
sented him, and never debased the quality of his work for the sake of a fat
WIth the separation of painting from architecture and the rise of the easel
picture, the popularity of the portrait increased by leaps and bounds, and
Titian made himself king of this domain.
He did not flatter his sitters; he cast
them all in the same mold, made them conform to his own ideal of aristocratic
superiority, finishing his canvases without models, slowly altering form and
features into a type of physical excellence that should be a credit to Venice
and to art.
He was most successful in portraits of men; he preferred women
in the nude.
The Man in a Red Cap is a superb illustration of Titian’s earlier style of
portraiture. This young noble with the exceptionally broad shoulders-a de
vice of the artist’s to emphasize masculinity and to give largeness and stability
to his designs-is painted with the utmost simplicity and with no trickeries.
He is a living presence, the essence of princeliness-everything that is tawdry
or bourgeois has been omitted; he is a lord, or at least he satisfies the romantic
conception of a lord, and he has the dignity and the commanding touch of
melancholy with which Titian adorned his manly heroes.
His identity is of no
importance, his occupation irrelevant. He is a member of Titian’s gallery of
portraits which embody the aristocratic complacency of Venice and which
appeal to the deep-seated pride and romantic aspirations lurking in the human