Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 94



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Titian’s paintings of the Salvator Mundi and Temptation of Christ and their patrons
There are, however, three subject options, among Titian’s
earlier paintings, that correspond to Granvelle’s words:
The Tribute Money (see fig. 9), a Bust of Christ (see fig. 1), or
a Salvator Mundi (see figs. 2 & 3); in all three compositions
Christ wears a blue pallio and a red sottana.26
Granvelle’s letter once again crossed with a letter from
Titian, dated 6 November, in which the painter stated,
“The promise that I made to you, that I would re-do
here the painting of Christ, I am ready to fulfil and,
[indeed], I have already begun it.”27 In this, it seems,
Titian was still wondering whether he should execute
a second version of the Man of Sorrows for Granvelle
and indeed may have begun one. But since there is no
subsequent mention of this, he presumably learnt that
a replacement was unnecessary.28 In his next surviving
letter, dated 2 December, Granvelle backtracked a little
on his colouristic suggestions:
As for the Christ, because it is with you
conveniently, I do not doubt that it will
turn out perfectly, and that you will have
understood from my letters the various
considerations, which I made on the way
it should be done. As for the colours of the
garments and the background, I made
those comments only for your information,
referring myself always to your judgment, as
[the] master of that beloved art.29
Fig. 12 / Titian,
The Temptation
of Christ, 1550, oil
on wood, 91 x 73
cm, Minneapolis,
Institute of Art.
Titian’s next letter to Granvelle, dated 7 December
and therefore written before he could have seen the
one just quoted, says only “your Titian will not fail
to execute the Christ commissioned from him and of
the very same manner.”30 It was only ten days later,
on the 17 December, that Titian actually replied to
Granvelle’s letter of the 2 December: “I have not
forgotten the Christ promised to your sovereign and
courteous goodness, which you would already have
had with celerity had it not been for my immediate
departure. But I hope to send it soon.”31 Titian had
to travel to Milan to meet Philip and he remained
with the prince and his entourage until February. But
following his return to Venice he must have worked
with concentration for, in a lost letter of 11 March, he
informed Granvelle that the Christ had been, or was
about to be, dispatched.32 Granvelle sent his thanks
from Brussels in a letter dated 28 April:
Titian’s paintings of the Salvator Mundi and Temptation of Christ and their patrons
I was very glad to have the news of 11 March
from your Excellency, and to learn that you
have finished the Christ and consigned it to
the postmaster [de’ Tassis]. I am awaiting
it to arrive promptly, so that marvelling at
that [image of] Christ, I will contemplate the
divine excellence of my Titian.33
By 21 June the painting had not yet arrived, but
Granvelle was untroubled: he wrote to Titian: “I have
already been advised by the postmaster of Venice that
you had consigned the Christ [to him] and I have no
doubt at all that, being by your hand, it will come out
perfectly; and when I see it, I shall write and will thank
you at greater length.”34 In his reply to this, of 29 July,
however, Titian did manifest some concern:
If the Christ has arrived safely in your hands
and gives satisfaction to your Excellency, I
should be greatly contented, and if things
are otherwise, greatly pained; yet whatever
the case your Lordship will keep it until
other things will be added.35
However, we hear no more of this painting in
successive letters between the two men, so it
presumably arrived safely. Neither of Granvelle’s
paintings of Christ is recorded in Granvelle
inventories, but these are very incomplete. Once
again, if originals or copies of one or other – or both
– survive, they are not securely identifiable. 36
Nevertheless, among Titian’s surviving paintings
the most likely – indeed the only – candidate
for Granvelle’s second Christ is the panel in the
Minneapolis Institute of Arts (fig. 12). 37 Although it
represents the Temptation of Christ, it is closely related
to the ‘Darnley’ and Vienna paintings of the Salvator
Mundi and is developed compositionally from them;
but it is somewhat larger and in this anticipates the
Hermitage canvas. The commonly accepted date
for the Temptation of Christ is ca. 1545-1555, refined
by Pallucchini to the end of the 1540s, which nicely
fits the correspondence. 38 The painting is first
recorded in 1727 in the Orléans Collection in Paris,
as coming from the Le Grand collection, which
does not confirm but certainly does not contradict a
provenance from Granvelle. 39
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