Paintings of the Man of Sorrows by Titian and his studio
Fig. 14 / Jacopo Bassano,
The Crucifixion with the
Virgin, Saint John and the
Magdalene, ca. 1562, oil on
canvas, 300 x 157 cm, Treviso,
Museo Civico Luigi Bailo.
One of Wethey’s reasons for identifying Philip II’s
Man of Sorrows and Mater Dolorosa with those sent
to the Escorial by Philip IV was, as noted above,
because he could not find them in the 1666 Alcázar
inventory. However, in that inventory is a reference
which he knew but seems to have misunderstood (and,
it seems, misnumbered): no. 789, in the Galleria del
Mediodia, just few footsteps away from the Oratorio,
was a painting “one and a quarter vara in height and
one vara in width, of an Ecce Homo by the hand of
Titian, worth sixty ducados”. It can be found in the same
place in 1686 (no. 315) and 1701, (no. 106): “Another
(painting) of an Ecce Homo of one and a quarter vara
in height and one vara in width by the hand of Titian
valued at 100 Doblones”.25 It seems likely – although,
of course, not certain – that this is Philip II’s Man
of Sorrows, by then deprived of the companion Mater
Dolorosa. I suspect that the original Mater Dolorosa exited
the collection between 1636 and 1666 (deteriorated,
lost, stolen, or gifted), and that while the original Man of
Sorrows survived until 1701 it too was later lost, perhaps
in the Alcázar fire of 1734.26 However, in 1772, 1794,
and 1814 (always unnumbered, always described as
copies) a pair of the Ecce Homo and the Dolorosa are
found framed together in the Sacrestia of Palacio Real;
their dimensions are given in confusing form, but all
the references must be to the same pictures. Martinez
Leiva and Rebollo tacitly assume, that these – or at
least the Christ – are also the same as those recorded
in the inventories of 1601, 1623, and 1636, but this
conclusion is open to question. The pair inventoried
in 1772 and subsequently located in the sacristy of the
Palacio Real was probably after the “Philipian Type”,
but the recorded dimensions of the two canvases forbid
their identification with those now owned by the Prado
(see figs. 10 & 11). But all this is very complicated and
open to diverse interpretation: as in so many other
instances, the matter can only remain open.
Returning to the lost originals of the Man of Sorrows and
Mater Dolorosa on canvas, two questions arise: was Philip
Paintings of the Man of Sorrows by Titian and his studio
II really their intended recipient? And when were they
painted? The dedication on Bertelli’s two engravings is
identical in content if slightly varied in form: Philippo
regi Catholico hispanarum Titianus pictor clarissimus D D.
It is hard to imagine that such inscriptions would be
applied to engravings after paintings made for any
patron other than Philip II. Furthermore, if it were to
be argued that they were made for some other client
and only after delivery presented or sold to Philip II,
it would entail accepting that news of the transfer
reached Venice and was then incorporated in the
prints – possible, of course, but unlikely.27 And although
there is no reference to these paintings in the surviving
correspondence between Titian and the king, that
correspondence is far from complete. As for their date,
Wethey suggested 1564, with reference to a short memo
sent to Philip II.28 This memo, unsigned, undated and
now unlocated, was dated 1564 by Beroqui and by
Hope, more specifically, to August that year. 29 It was
certainly penned by a minister of Philip whom Beroqui
believed to be Gabriel de la Cuevas but whom Hope,
no doubt correctly, identified as Gonzalo Peréz. The
relevant part of it reads:
With regard to the paintings, it has been well
done; I will send yours to your Majesty which
the Empress has sent; the others are a small
Our Lady and Christ which Titian sent me.30
Earlier in 1564, on 8 March, Gonzalo Peréz had
written to Titian thanking him: “For the image of
Our Lady that you say you made for me I kiss your
hands, and when it comes, I will deliver the Supper to
his Majesty”.31 The Supper refers to the Last Supper by
Titian and his studio, then nearing completion and
dispatched to Spain later that year. It is obviously
tempting to connect the two references and assume
that the painting mentioned in March, then still with
Titian in Venice, was a Madonna Dolorosa, and half of
the pair that in August had recently arrived, and this
assumption is probably correct.32
Accepting that Gonzalo Peréz wrote the August memo,
it seems clear from it that the two pictures of Christo
and Nuestra Senora were his own property, sent by Titian
to him and not to the king. Of course, they might later
have been presented to, bequeathed to, or purchased
by Philip II, in which case they could, in principle, be
the Man of Sorrows and the Mater Dolorosa on canvas
first securely recorded in the Alcázar in 1600. If so,
it would follow that the iconographical development
they embody was prompted by a commission from, or
Titian’s desire to serve, one of Philip’s ministers, not
Philip himself.33 But such a contention would return us
to the lettering on Bertelli’s engravings, affirming Philip
II’s ownership – which, as Matthias Wivel suggests to
me, probably reflects information provided to Bertelli
by Titian. We also have to recall that Peréz’s August
memo refers to the two paintings owned by the writer as
“pequeños”. The word is relative but, in the memo, it is
employed in relation to a portrait, so the pictures were
probably nearer the smaller than the larger of Titian’s
dimensional range of treatments of these subjects.
It would be foolish to be assertive, but on balance it seems
more likely that the original pair was indeed created
for Philip II and not for one of his ministers. It is my –
subjective – impression that the two canvases, so far as
we can judge from the copies after them, antedate 1564
and are likely to have been painted around the mid1550s: certainly the composition of the Mater Dolorosa was
known by 1561-1562 to Jacopo Bassano who borrowed
it, reversed, in his Crucifixion now in the Museo Civico
Treviso (fig. 14).34 If this dating is correct, the pair sent in
1564 to Peréz were probably reduced repetitions of the
king’s pair. Wethey’s list of copies of the “Philipian type”
of the Mater Dolorosa strongly suggests that the subject
existed in different sizes.35 References to other – now
unidentifiable – copies, both of the Man of Sorrows and
the Mater Dolorosa, to be found in Spanish collections of
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries point to the
same conclusion.36 And, as we have seen, Titian and/or
his studio produced variants at different sizes.37


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