Navigation (in separate window)

Homepage Art History on Stamps

Search Google

(1477 (?) -1576)

Back to Renaissance

Titian, whose name in Italian is Tiziano Vecellio, was born in Pieve di Cadore, north of Venice, by his own account in 1477, but many modern scholars prefer to advance the date to about 1487. 

Below is Titian's famous painting of Flora, painted c. 1515, (belonging to the Uffizi Galleries, Florence, Italy), issued by three different countries.  The formal disagreement about Titian's birth year is beautifully reflected on these stamps.  The Bulgarian stamp states 1487, the Italian issue has 1490, and the Hungarian issue says 1477, as accounted for by Titian himself.  On this link When Was Titian Born, you can read more about the ongoing discussion, including pros and cons for all the years mentioned.  

Bulgaria 1986. Titian: "Flora".

Bulgaria 1986
Scott # 3216
Michel # 3531

Italy 1976. Titian: "Flora".

Italy 1976
Scott # 1233
Michel # 1539

Hungary 1976. Titian: "Flora".

Hungary 1976
Scott # 2433
Michel # 3135

An art collector who has visited this page has brought my attention to an interesting detail in the painting of Flora.  In her hair, on the left side, Titian has incorporated a portrait of a gentleman.  It is hardly a self-portrait, the nose is far from being Titian's, eventually compare with his self-portrait to the right.  

Titian: Close-Up of "Flora" with hidden portrait in her hair. Titian: Self-Portrait.

If any visitor to this page knows who the gentleman on the hidden portrait might be, or can give hints as where to find out, I will be more than happy to receive information about this by email.  

In Venice, he studied with Gentile Bellini and then with Giovanni Bellini, but only the latter left a lasting imprint on his style.  Titian is regarded the greatest 16th-century Venetian painter and the shaper of the Venetian colouristic and painterly tradition, making him one of the key figures in the history of Western art.  

In Padua (Padova), in 1511, Titian executed frescoes of three Miracles of St. Anthony for the Scuola del Santo. These narratives demonstrate his power to imbue his ample figures with a convincing sense of anguished, impulsive life, as he set realistically conceived events within vividly and rather impressionistically realized landscapes. 

Grenada/Grenadines 1988. Titian: Detail of "The Three Ages of Man".

In later paintings of this decade Titian progressively enriched Giorgione's idyllic style. 

Bodies and fabrics took on an increasingly sensuous density and splendor, landscape settings became more resonant, colors deep and intense but harmonious, as in The Three Ages of Man (c. 1513, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh) and Sacred and Profane Love (c. 1515, Galleria Borghese, Rome). 

  • Grenada/Grenadines 1988.  Detail of "The Three Ages of Man". 
    Scott # 965. Michel # 970. 

Sacred and Profane Love may be an allegory. The clothed woman is believed to represent earthly vanity and materialistic love, the nude to represent higher, pure love. Titian was one of the first painters to use oil on canvas instead of wood. This canvas is 1.21 x 2.79 m 

Italy 1995. Titian: "Sacred and Profane Love".

Scott # 2026
Michel # 2380

San Marino 1966. Detail (left part) of painting by Titian: "Sacred and Profane Love*.

Scott # 642
Michel # 868

The dynamic vibrancy of these works is paralleled in Titian's religious paintings of the same period. First among these is the mighty Assumption of the Virgin (1516-18) over the high altar of Santa Maria dei Frari in Venice. Its strong colors, golden light, and massive, gesticulating figures, designed to be seen from afar, nevertheless remain plausible in terms of ordinary human experience. Its unveiling in 1518 provoked a sensation. In another painting for this church, the Madonna of the House of Pesaro (1519-26), Titian effected a crucial change in Renaissance sacre conversazioni (paintings of the Virgin enthroned among saints) by placing the Virgin, traditionally at the composition's center, halfway up its right side, and by painting behind her in diagonal recession two giant columns that soar out of the picture's space. This new scheme was widely adopted by later artists, such as Paolo Veronese and the Carracci family, and, with its evocation of movement and infinity, it opened the way to the baroque style. The most dynamic of all Titian's paintings of this period was the huge Death of St. Peter Martyr (1530, now destroyed), in which the violent action was echoed in the convulsion of trees and sky. 

Romania 1968. Titian: "Ecce Homo", souvenir sheet.

The painting "Ecce Homo" once belonged to the Brukenthal Museum in Sibiu, Romania (also known as Hermannstadt).  Shortly after the stamp (and souvenir sheet) were issued in March 1968, the painting disappeared from the museum, and has never been found again.

The souvenir sheet is imperforate, and numbered on the reverse side in the lower right corner.  The sheet shown has No. 49868.

Romania 1968. Titian: "Ecce Homo", postage stamp.

These paintings, both secular and religious, give evidence of Titian's awareness of contemporary High Renaissance achievements in Rome and Florence. Known to him only through prints and drawings (before his visit to Rome in 1545-46), they served as a stimulus and an aid in creating a Venetian counterpart: a High Renaissance style equally complex, monumental, and dynamic, but one which made full use of the traditional Venetian resources of color, free brushwork, and atmospheric tone.  

Work of the Middle Period  
Venus of Urbino was painted by Titian in 1538. The pose was taken from an earlier painting by Giorgione and is a recreation of the classical Greek nude. This painting embodies the rich color and tone for which Titian was famous; its pictorial composition is flawless. Being a revision of Giorgione's "Sleeping Venus" (painted c. 1510) it is marked by relative quiet, pictorial subtlety, and coloristic refinement.  The painting belongs to the Uffizi Museum, Florence.  

Paraguay 1971. Titian: "Venus of Urbino". Postcard showing Titian's painting "Venus of Urbino".

Titian's most important innovations in the years from 1530 to 1550 were made in portraiture. In 1516 he had been named official painter to the Venetian state; thereafter he worked at the courts of Ferrara and Mantua (Mantova). 

Belgium 1955. Titian: "Emperor Charles V".

In the 1530s and ‘40s he traveled to Bologna to paint the Emperor Charles V and Pope Paul III, and at the pope's behest he visited Rome and met Michelangelo. 

He joined the court of Charles V at Augsburg, Germany, in 1548 and 1550. As a result of this connection, he obtained a multitude of portrait commissions.  

Scott # 486.  Michel # 1014. 

Belgium 2000. Titian: "Emperor Charles V on Horseback". Joint issue with Spain.

Scott # ? 
Michel # 2940 (Block 76)

Span 2000. Titian: "Emperor Charles V on Horseback". Joint issue with Belgium.

Scott # ?
Michel # 3532 (Block 76)

Austria 1971. Titian: "Jacopi de Strads" (detail).

Scott # 894
Michel # 1360

Spain 1938. Titian: "Don Juan d'Austria, the victorious Chief Commander of the United Navy of  Spain, Venice and Genoa.".

Michel # 819A (Block 11)

Titian's portraits, initially like Giorgione's, soon took on a greater expansiveness and more overt authority to become compellingly beautiful images of idealized masculinity (Man with a Glove, c. 1520, Louvre) or femininity (Flora, c. 1515 -- see top of this page). In the 1520s and ‘30s, however, they changed.  

Aristocratic impersonality and restrained opulence, as in the portrait of Federigo Gonzaga (c. 1526, Prado), became the dominant tone.  In general, these court portraits are images of command rather than explorations of personality.  

The stamp to the right shows "La Bella", aka Duchess Eleonora Gonzaga d'Urbino, the wife of Federigo Gonzaga, painted c. 1536.  It belongs to Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy   

  • San Marino 1966.  Duchess Eleonora Gonzaga d'Urbino.  
    Scott # 639, Michel # 865

San Marino 1966. Titian: "Duchess Eleonora Gonzaga d'Urbino".

Later Works  
After 1550, when Titian had returned to Venice, his style again changed. In a series of superb mythological paintings for Philip II of Spain, beginning with the Danaë (c. 1553, belonging to Prado) and including the Rape of Europa (circa 1559-62, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston), forms gradually lose their solidity, partially dissolving into hazy paint textures and vibrant brushstrokes, while color becomes more intense, so that a universe seems to be on the verge of disintegrating into flame. 

USSR 1982. Titian: "Danae". Fujeira 1972. Titian: "Danae Receiving the Golden Rain".

To the later works belong also the painting "School of Love", painted 1565, and belonging to the Borghese Gallery, Rome.  The neutral atmospheric backgrounds of the earlier portraits might be replaced by cannily disposed elements of setting, such as a column, a curtain, or a view into landscape. These elements, and the patterns in which Titian arranged them, remained staples of formal portraiture into the 20th century. 
San Marino 1966. Titian: "The Education of Love" (left detail).

Scott # 641
Michel # 867

San Marino 1966. Titian: "The Education of Love" (right detail).

Scott # 640
Michel # 866

Titian died in Venice on August 27, 1576. His work, which permanently affected the course of European painting, provided an alternative, of equal power and attractiveness, to the linear and sculptural Florentine tradition championed by Michelangelo and Raphael; this alternative, eagerly taken up by Peter Paul Rubens, Diego Velázquez, Rembrandt, Eugène Delacroix, and the impressionists, is still vital today. In its own right, moreover, Titian's work often attains the very highest reach of human achievement in the visual arts. 

There are hundreds of Titian-paintings of stamps, however most of them from the Arab Emirates, African states, the Caribbean Islands, Asia, Pacific Island States, and Latin American countries.  Only a very limited number have been issued by European countries, Italy, the Vatican, and San Marino.  

Note added 18th October 2004. 
Rumour has it that a substantial proof of Titian's birth year being 1473/74 is to be found in Venice.  In 1956 an Italian researcher, Signor Lotti, found a notice in the registry protocol of Titian's local parish church in Venice, informing that Titian died on 27th August 1576, nearly 103 years old.  This notice is said to be a legal document, acknowledged by the same art historians who continually maintain that Titian was born 1488/90.  The reason to maintain the incorrect assertion about Titian's birth year is allegedly to justify the relatively large output of paintings [in spite of his age] in his so-called late period after 1555-60, which nearly doubled, or rather tripled, after Titian's youngest son Orazio took over the management of the family business.  It is said that it was Orazio who did the paintings of Titian's late period, not Titian himself.  (Source undisclosed upon request, but known to the webmaster as professional and reliable).  

Sources and links:  

Other Renaissance painters on this site: 


Back to Renaissance

Navigation (in separate window)

Homepage Art History on Stamps

Search Google

Revised 24-jul-2006. Ann Mette Heindorff
Copyright © 1999-2007. All Rights Reserved

Homepage Heindorffhus