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THE GETTY SECURES MASTERPIECE PORTRAIT BY TITIAN

Titian Set The Standard for Formal Portraiture in Western Painting, Influencing Generations of Artists

November 24, 2003

Los Angeles—The Getty announces the acquisition of Titian's Portrait of Alfonso d’Avalos, Marchese del Vasto (1533), a 16th-century masterpiece by the leading exponent of Venetian Renaissance painting.  Secured from a French collection, this major picture will be one of the most important works in the Getty's collection, and will rank among the half dozen finest paintings by Titian held in this country.

"The painting is a spectacular example of Titian's work, and will be one of the finest Renaissance portraits in the country," said Deborah Gribbon, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum and vice president of the Getty Trust.  "We're incredibly excited to add this picture to the collection.  It is a remarkable portrait embodying the idealized, heroic style of antiquity and imbuing it with great empathy and humanism, setting an example that guided the development of portraiture for centuries to come."

The official painter of the Venetian Republic, Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, ca. 1487-1576) worked in a wide variety of formats and genres and his influence can be traced in all of them.  Portraiture, however, was the genre in which he most emphatically established his primacy and on which he had the most lasting impact.  He was the most sought-after portraitist of the Italian Renaissance and can be credited with the perfection of the formal standing state portrait.  The enormous influence of Titian's work can be traced through the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries in works by artists including Rubens, Van Dyck, Velázquez, Rembrandt, David, Degas, and Cézanne, and into portraits for corporate and university boardrooms of the 19th and 20th century.  Executed at the height of the artist's career, Portrait of Alfonso d'Avalos, Marchese del Vasto is among Titian's greatest achievements in portraiture. 

Created in the first few months of 1533, the painting is a half-length depiction of a standing Alfonso d'Avalos, a Neapolitan nobleman, intellectual and art collector.  As a military commander in the service of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, D'Avalos is shown in armor, wearing the insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and accompanied by a page, who hands him his helmet.  The picture is a tour-de-force of painting—the figures emerge from a cocoon of indeterminate yet tangible space as if sculpted in three dimensions.  D’Avalos's features and introspective expression are insightfully and sensitively described, while the richly ornamented armor is painted with dazzling virtuosity.

Titian's Portrait of Alfonso d’Avalos, Marchese del Vasto represents a critical addition to the Getty's increasingly distinguished and varied holdings of Renaissance portraits, which include Jacopo Pontormo's Portrait of a Halberdier and Sebastiano del Piombo's Portrait of Pope Clement VII.  All three were painted at nearly the same moment, and offer Getty visitors a rare opportunity to see key portraits by three of the most important artists of the Renaissance working in three of the most important artistic centers—Venice, Florence, and Rome, respectively. 

The Getty's collection of portraits is already particularly strong, and includes Van Dyck’s Agostino Pallavicini (around 1620), Domenico Fetti’s Man with a Sheet of Music (around 1620),  Guercino's Pope Gregory XV (about 1622-23), Rembrandt's Old Man in Military Costume (1630-31), Renoir's Albert Cahen d'Anvers (1881), and Cézanne’s Young Italian Girl (1895-1900).  The new acquisition will be the Getty's greatest portrait. 

Titian dominated Venetian painting during the years of its greatest achievement.  His artistic training was with Giovanni Bellini, but during his early years he fell under the spell of the poetic romanticism of Giorgione.  To the Giorgionesque esthetic of mood and atmosphere, Titian added a grandeur derived from a fuller bodied and more sensual realism, within a heroic canon true to high Renaissance ideals.   To his contemporaries, Titian—whether his subject was mythology, the Bible, or portraiture—was simply inimitable, a consummate master of a rich and robust colorism and dense atmospheric effects.  His fame spread throughout Europe, and in 1533 he was appointed court painter to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, whose portrait he painted several times.   Among Titian’s important subjects were Ippolito de'Medici, the Duke of Urbino and his Duchess, Pope Paul III, Pietro Bembo, Francis I, and Philip II of Spain. 

Upon its arrival at the Museum, the painting will be installed in the North Pavilion until the end of February.  It will then be temporarily removed from public view for study and minor conservation.  Despite its age, the picture survives in remarkable condition.  After cleaning and revarnishing by the Getty's expert staff of paintings conservators, the painting will be placed on permanent display.

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