Showcase Reunites Two Portaits of the Same
Sitter by Titian, Offering Rare Insight into the Relationship Between Artist and Patron.
Titian and the Commander: A Renaissance Artist and his Patron
June 8, 2005
LOS ANGELES—Titian’s 16th-century masterpiece Portrait of Alfonso d’Avalos, Marchese del Vasto (1533) is the basis of a new, focused exhibition that examines the relationship between one of the greatest Renaissance artists and his powerful subject. Titian and the Commander: A Renaissance Artist and his Patron, at the Getty Center, October 4, 2005–February 5, 2006, will celebrate the addition of this significant portrait, acquired by the Getty in 2003, to the Museum’s collection. Portrait of Alfonso d’Avalos ranks among the half-dozen finest paintings by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, about 1487–1576) in the United States. It is often considered the prototype of one of the most influential genres of Western art—the standing state portrait—that Titian is credited with inventing.
The exhibition will also feature Titian’s other portrait of d’Avalos, The Allocution of Alfonso d’Avalos, Marchese del Vasto to His Troops, lent by the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. This is only the second time the picture has been on loan and the first time it is being shown in the U.S. Getty Center visitors will therefore have a rare opportunity to see the two portraits that d’Avalos commissioned from Titian together for the first time since they were displayed in d’Avalos’ palazzo in Milan nearly 500 years ago. In addition to images of himself, d’Avalos is known to have ordered from Titian a Penitent Magdalene, one of the artist’s most popular and influential compositions, a version of which is now in the Getty’s collection and included in this exhibition.
"The works on view are the masterful result of a partnership between artist and patron that left its mark on art history," said William Griswold, acting director and chief curator of the J. Paul Getty Museum. "With these portraits and others, Titian set the standard for court portraiture, and his influence can be traced through the centuries that followed in works by Rubens, Van Dyck, Velázquez, Rembrandt, David, Degas and others, and in portraits for corporate boardrooms of the 19th and 20th century."
Also on view are five 16th-century books from the special collections of the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute that will add context to the painted works. They include Lodovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, first published in 1532, Vasari’s Italian edition of the Lives of the Artists from 1568, Paolo Giovio’s Elogia Virorum illustrium, 1575, and Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier, 1528. These complement the paintings, containing biographies of d’Avalos and Titian and a mention of the Getty’s Titian picture.
Titian was the official painter of the Venetian Republic and one of the most sought-after portrait artists of the Italian Renaissance. Among his clients were popes, princes, kings, diplomats, and other powerful figures of the day, including Alfonso d'Avalos, the governor of Milan and commander general of imperial forces in Italy under the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Titian and the commander probably met in 1530 at Charles’ coronation—when the artist was invited to paint the portrait of the newly crowned Emperor. The exhibition reveals the connections between painter and patron at the highest levels of Italian society, and sheds more light on the commissions of the works on view.
Born into an influential family, Alfonso d'Avalos was a well-known figure during his lifetime, and the subject of various poems and books. He was the Renaissance embodiment of the soldier-intellectual: a decorated warrior as well as a writer and patron of the arts. He commissioned works from the leading artists of the day, in particular Titian, whom he entrusted with the delicate task of capturing his image for posterity. Portrait of Alfonso d’Avalos was the first portrait that d’Avalos commissioned from Titian. Created at the height of the artist’s career, the work is a supreme example of the formal state standing portrait, which Titian is said to have pioneered.
In Portrait of Alfonso d’Avalos, Titian depicts the commander as a heroic figure by painting him in a striking pose and placing the insignia of the prestigious Order of the Golden Fleece around d’Avalos’ neck. When discussing the format for this commission, d’Avalos must certainly have sought to flatter the Emperor by having Titian paint his own portrait as Titian had portrayed Charles earlier: half-length, in armor, and bare-headed. Six years later, d’Avalos commissioned a second portrait of himself, The Allocution of Alfonso d’Avalos, Marchese del Vasto to His Troops. This time, Titian portrayed d’Avalos on a grander scale, full length, and placed in a scene of one of the commander’s victorious campaigns. This was d’Avalos’ way of promoting himself to the Emperor, who was to be present at the arrival of the painting in Milan in the late summer of 1541.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of related events, including a Gordon Getty Concert on January 21, 2006. One of the world’s foremost vocal chamber ensembles, The Hilliard Ensemble, will perform music of d’Avalos’s time, including works from a book of motets dedicated to him and a madrigal that features his poetry.
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 (about 1528–30) and Sebastiano del Piombo’s Portrait of Pope Clement VII (about 1531). 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), Goya’s Portrait of the Marquesa de Santiago (1804), Renoir’s Albert Cahen d’Anvers (1881), and Cézanne’s Young Italian Girl (1895s–1900).
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