Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 92



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Titian’s paintings of the Salvator Mundi and Temptation of Christ and their patrons
Titian’s paintings of the Salvator Mundi and Temptation of Christ and their patrons
On 29 August Granvelle wrote from Spira (Speyer):
As for the Christ, if your Excellency considers
that it can be done better in Venice, then with
God’s blessing take it there, because you can
then give it to the postmaster Messer Ruggiero
de’ Tassi who, I know, will send it on securely.
And I would prefer the [execution] to take you
a little more time and to be of good [quality],
rather than for a work of Titian to be
compromised by haste. And I beseech you to
show me the affection that you bear for me in
the face of this Christ, as perfect as that of the
original which the emperor possesses, because
I shall requite you with every kindness.19
Like Federico Gonzaga, Granvelle was concerned with
quality and stressed the perfection that he hoped to see
in Christ’s features, referring to the emperor’s picture
as a model. But his letter crossed with one from Titian
dated 1 September which refers to an earlier agreement
made between patron and painter:
I will consign within two days your Excellency’s
paintings to your host [Georg Schörer,
Granvelle’s host in Augsburg] as his Excellency
told me. If the Christ is not executed as well as
you deserve, although at present my mind is not
very calm owing to my affairs and problems,
I will replace it at my ease when I am in Italy;
nevertheless, I hope it will not displease you for
it is very like the Roman one.20
Fig. 11 / Titian, Christ as
Salvator Mundi, early 1560s,
oil on canvas, 96 x 80 cm,
Saint Petersburg, The State
Hermitage Museum.
From this it appears that Titian had finished or
was about to finish a Man of Sorrows which was to
be left with Schörer together with other pictures
commissioned by Granvelle; however, if Granvelle
deemed it unsatisfactory, he would replace it after his
return to Venice when he would be more relaxed.21 It
is interesting that Titian remarked that the painting he
was leaving for Granvelle was “molto simile a quello di
Roma” which must mean that it followed the version of
the subject that he had painted for Paul rather than that
given to the emperor and, consequently, confirms that
there were differences between them, although in what
those differences consisted is open to discussion.22
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In another letter, datable either to the 23 or 26
September (responding to a lost one from Granvelle of
16 September), Titian, writing from Füssen, states that
he had indeed left the Christ with Schörer, but adds that
he would furnish another Christ on his return: “Your
Excellency should keep the Christ until I can do another
one in Italy more conveniently.”23 One might assume
that this second Christ was to be identical to the first
one, and that it too was to be a Man of Sorrows. But this
does not seem to have been the case.
Granvelle’s next surviving letter, dated 4 November,
makes clear that he is awaiting the second Christ from the
painter, who was by then back in Venice. Although he
does not urge Titian to rush, his impatience is evident:
It only remains that your Excellency should not
forget the Christ that you promised to paint
for me at your convenience when you were in
Italy, and with all that beauty and perfection
that I hope to receive from Titian, who, I
know, will employ [in it] a diligence far greater
than I would know how to ask for. Above all
I would like Christ’s face to be as beautiful,
soft and delicate as you know how to make it.
I would also like the background to be of a
dark brownish hue [berretino], as is customary.
The outer garment, or pallio, I would wish to
be purple rather than blue; the undergarment
[sottana] can remain red, as in the other
[painting]. In sum, I know that coming from
your hand this Christ will be painted as I
would wish it to be, therefore I leave it to your
customary discretion and affection.24
This letter is unusual – perhaps unique – in that the
patron seeks to specify the colours that the painter
should employ: as Hale remarks, it is a solecism.25 It also
demonstrates that this Christ was different in subject from
the Man of Sorrows left for Granvelle in Augsburg, for in no
known version of the Man of Sorrows by Titian does Christ
wear a pallio – let alone a blue one – as well as a sottana.
What might seem possible alternatives, that the subject
was an Ecce Homo or a Mocking, are implausible because in
none of the relevant paintings by Titian in which Christ
wears a pallio is that pallio blue or, for that matter purple.

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