Paintings of the Man of Sorrows by Titian and his studio
Paintings of the Man of Sorrows by Titian and his studio
Fig. 4 / Titian, Mater
Dolorosa, ca. 1568, oil
on wood, 68 x 57 cm,
ex-Brooklyn, Private
Collection, USA.
Fig. 5 / X-ray fig. 4.
Between 1539 and 1552, Titian’s representation of
the Man of Sorrows probably remained fairly constant.
In the absence of visual evidence to the contrary, it
is likely that the differences among the “Eleonora”,
“Pauline”, and “Emperor” types were slight – mostly
consisting in variatons of colour and tone and the
presence or absence of a cane – and that Christ’s
pose underwent only small changes. But around the
middle of the 1550s Titian seems to have decided
to produce a new type of Man of Sorrows and to pair
it – or at least some examples of it – with a new Mater
Dolorosa: one that he and his studio were also to repeat
and to recombine with yet other types of the Man of
Sorrows, just as he had successively combined Charles
V’s Man of Sorrows with two different treatments of the
Mater Dolorosa. It seems very likely – although it has
been contested – that the this new pair was painted
for the new Spanish monarch Philip II, either in
response to a request or on Titian’s own initiative, to
update the pairing he had intended for Philip’s father.
The salient feature of the “Philipian type” of the Man
of Sorrows is that the cane, now thicker and heavier
than in the Chantilly and ex-Dorotheum examples
(See Part I), rises in the opposite direction, from
lower right to upper left, at an angle of about thirtyfive degrees, traversing Christ’s chest and intersecting
His wrists just above the cords and His left upper
arm just below the shoulder. This rearrangement
creates a more geometrical, hence stronger, image
of the Saviour and qualifies the desolation expressed
in the “Emperor type”.9 As for the Mater Dolorosa,
instead of looking towards her Son – as in the panel
sent by Titian to Charles V – she bends her head
downwards, tears falling over her cheeks, wringing
her hands in distress. Titian and his studio seem to
have executed several closely similar versions of this
Mater Dolorosa over more than a decade, but the single
autograph example known at present is that formerly
in the Diocese of Brooklyn (fig. 4). Although, in my
view, this painting is a late example of the type, of the
second half of the 1560s, it establishes unequivocally
that the new pattern was developed from the first
Mater Dolorosa sent to Charles (see fig. 2), for X-rays
reveal a lay-in of the earlier arrangement beneath the
present surface (fig. 5).10


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