Colnaghi Foundation Journal 01 - Page 121

TI TIA N / Unidentified Donor Presented to the Virgin and Child by Saint Luke
TI TI AN / Unidentified Donor Presented to the Virgin and Child by Saint Luke
As for haloes, Titian includes them intermittently and
when he does, employs a variety of forms. Thus, while
the haloes in the Royal Collection picture do not recur
elsewhere in Titian’s work, even in the dell’Orologio
canvas, they hardly possess sufficient leverage to
prise the picture free of its traditional attribution, an
attribution strongly reaffirmed by Suida in 1959.17
Fig. 5 / Peter Oliver after
Titian, Virgin and Child with
a Donor and Saint Luke,
drawing, Windsor Castle,
Collection of Her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth II.
Fig. 6 / Sir Antony van Dyck
after Titian (abbreviated),
Virgin and Child with a
Donor and Saint Luke, pen
and brown ink, London,
British Museum.
The figures’ relations in the Hampton Court painting
are easier and more fluent than in the surface of the
dell’Orologio canvas and the design corresponds
closely to the underlying composition. However,
although the x-ray is insufficiently detailed to permit
certainty, the submerged donor in the latter seems
to be a different person, and to rise a little higher in
the picture surface. Nor is either donor identical with
that in another canvas that appeared at Dorotheum,
21 October 2014, lot 243, as Venetian school, but
which, to judge from a photograph, may reasonably
be given to Titian’s circle (fig. 9).18 Here the cast is
confined to the Virgin and Child and the donor, and
while an intercessor might have been excised, it seems
more likely that the canvas was created in a more
intimate format. This young man too is positioned
a little differently from his counterparts in the other
compositions, but his ruff might explain the blurred
forms visible in this area in the dell’Orologio x-ray.
Perhaps Titian and his studio issued two – or more
– similar compositions with different donors, one
with an intercessor one without, maybe for members
of the same family. Shearman noted that the donor
in Charles I’s painting was traditionally believed to
be a member of the Cornaro family (could this be
a misreading of Genoa?) but gave no source for this
statement.19 It would make no more than economic
sense if Titian decided that one such canvas, including
an intercessor, left unfinished in the studio, might be
re-modelled for sale by the superimposition of Saint
The Royal Collection’s painting has received scant
attention in recent years but it seems to me that,
although worn and obscured by discoloured varnish,
it is by the hand of Titian. The forms throughout are
refined and elegant: Luke’s right arm is complex in
its movement and the Virgin’s head and neck have
a rhythmical alertness absent from the dell’Orologio
canvas. The same is true of the Child, whose eager
lifelikeness of movement recalls babies depicted by
Titian ca. 1520, as in the Sutherland Holy Family
with Saint John. The fluency and fluidity of the paint
Fig. 7 / Unidentified painter
after Titian, Virgin and Child
with a Donor and Saint
Luke, Nottingham Castle
handling fits well with Titian in the early 1560s when
he experimented with thin washes of pigment to lyrical
effect, as in the Europa, the Blindfolding of Cupid and the
Prado Danae. The attribution of the Virgin and Child with
Saint Luke and a Donor to Palma Giovane actually has
rather little to be said for it. The painting is ignored
in the catalogues raisonné by Ivanoff and Zampetti of
1980 and by Mason Rinaldi of 1984 – and although
Shearman’s catalogue appeared after the publication of
the former and probably came to the latter’s notice too
late for comment, they could have known of the Royal
Collection’s picture from Collins Baker.20 Shearman
cites two paintings by Palma in support of his
attribution: the early and naïf Virgin and Child with Saints
John and Sebastian in Dijon and the clumsy Madonna
with Saints Nicholas of Bari, Lucy and Carlo Borromeo (thus
executed after Borromeo’s canonisation in 1614) in
San Pietro Martire, Murano which, although signed,


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