Paintings of the Man of Sorrows by Titian and his studio
Paintings of the Man of Sorrows by Titian and his studio
Fig. 27 / Unidentified
seventeenth-century? artist
after Titian, Mater Dolorosa, oil
on canvas, 79 x 59 cm, Florence,
Gallerie degli Uffizi.
Between 1564 and 1566 Titian executed a Christ and
a Madonna for Guidobaldo II, Duke of Urbino. The
project seems to have been initiated in December 1564
and in a letter of 6 January 1565, Titian specifically
asked Guidobaldo whether the paintings should be on
wood – so he was still painting on wood at this date
– or canvas, and from which direction they should be
illuminated; Guidobaldo’s answer, unfortunately, is lost.60
Titian does not mention their precise subjects which,
presumably, had already been determined. A year
later, on 26 January 1566, Guidobaldo’s ambassador
in Venice, Gian Francesco Agatone wrote to the
duke:“Titan was here in my house yesterday evening
to tell me that the two devotional paintings, that is of
Christ and of the Madonna, have ben finished by his
own hand, and that he will attend to the other one.”61
It sounds from this as though three paintings were in
question, two of which were pendants, and that, in
principle, the Madonna would have been a Madonna
Addolorata and the Christo a Man of Sorrows. We cannot
be certain of this: thus, Hope thought that the Madonna
was in fact a Virgin and Child with two Angels on wood
which also came to Florence from Urbino; this is now
lost but a copy of it survives. However, it seems more
likely that that picture was a separate, unrecorded,
and somewhat an earlier commission.62 Nor is the
subject of the Christo certain: it could in principle have
been a Salvator Mundi. That Titian was reconsidering
this subject at about this time is demonstrated by his
unfinished canvas in the Hermitage.63 But, once again,
this seems less likely than the alternative. A minor
complication is that the third painting referred to, but
unnamed, by Agatone in his letter of 6 January is likely
to have been a Madonna – but not the one formerly in
Florence – which was delivered to Guidobaldo in 1567
and is the subject of letters between Titian and the
duke of, respectively, the 3 and 10 May.64
The Christ recorded in Urbinate inventories in the
1620s was probably – if not certainly – the Palatina
Man of Sorrows discussed in the Part I of this article and
not the Christo of 1565-1566. In any case no pendant
Madonna Addolorata has been found, and none is to be
found in the consignment that arrived in Florence
in 1631. A Madonna Addolorata of the appropriate
type, with an attribution to Titian, was listed in the
apartment of Vittoria della Rovere at Poggio Imperiali
in 1654, and was inventoried among her possessions in
1691 as: “A painting on canvas 1 1/8 b.a high, 7/8 b.a
wide, painted by the hand of Titian with a bust-length Madonna in profile dressed in red with a white
cloth over her head which is like a wimple and hands
clasping a cross as she looks down at the ground.”65 But
whether or not this now lost and rather small picture
came from Urbino is conjectural, for another version
of this type, plus at least two copies of that, was already
in Florence.66 What might seem to be a corresponding
picture is in the Uffizi (fig. 27), but this canvas, which
measures 79 x 59 cm, entered the museum only in 1898
as a gift of the English collector Arthur de Noé Walker.67
Rather than pursuing the Florentine trail, which seems
to run into the sand, it may be more fruitful to propose
a different hypothesis: that the pictures painted for
Guidobaldo in the mid-1560s were the Sibiu Man of
Sorrows (see fig. 24) and its lost companion Mater Dolorosa. If
so, Guidobaldo, or a later Della Rovere would have gifted or
sold them. The Della Rovere could, of course, have retained
a copy of the Mater Dolorosa, which would be the picture
recorded in 1654 and later, but that work might equally
well have arrived in Florence from some other route.68
There is, however, an alternative possibility for
Guidobaldo’s pair. Around 1650, Lucas Vorsterman II
issued pendant engravings of the Man of Sorrows and
the Mater Dolorosa (figs. 28 & 29), both rare. The Man
of Sorrows, which was certainly engraved in its source’s
original direction, has been described as after the
Dublin painting, but it differs considerably from that.69
Indeed, the representation of Christ in Vorsterman’s
print seems to be unique to Titian’s work in that His


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