Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 86

Titian’s paintings of the Salvator Mundi and Temptation of Christ and their patrons
Titian’s paintings of the Salvator Mundi and Temptation of Christ and their patrons
Commissioned by Francesco Maria in 1532 on behalf
of his Duchess, Eleonora Gonzaga, it was received
shortly before 23 March 1534.6 The brothers-in-law
employed Titian in parallel, both ordering from him
versions of the Adoration of the Shepherds (Francesco
Maria’s panel is in the Galleria Palatina; Federico’s
in Christ Church, Oxford). It would be reasonable
to suppose that at least the first of Federico’s two
paintings of Christ was similar to – and might even
have preceded – that made for Urbino.7 However,
while this option cannot be ruled out, supporting
evidence is lacking: no versions or variants of the
Palatina bust of Christ in any way distinguishable
from it are known, either in originals or copies.8
Fig. 2 / Titian, Christ
in Profile, 1534, oil
on wood, 77x 57 cm,
Florence, Galleria
Palatina, Palazzo Pitti.
Fig. 3 / Titian, Christ
as Salvator Mundi, ca.
1535?, oil on canvas,
83x 61 cm, Vienna,
Another option, which would have the advantage
of accounting for two neglected paintings, is that
Titian’s pictures were of Christ as Salvator Mundi. A
version of this subject, on wood, rather damaged
and somewhat overpainted, with Christ holding a
transparent globe in his left hand, once part of the
great collection of the Earl of Darnley (fig. 1), is now
privately owned in the UK; a related Salvator Mundi
on canvas, in which Christ lays His right hand upon
the globe, is in Vienna (fig. 3). Both paintings are
datable – and, in the meagre discussion of them,
generally dated – to the 1530s. While they have been
marginalized or ignored in recent scholarship, both
are, in my judgment, fully autograph and might well
have been Federico’s pictures.9 The ‘Darnley’ Salvator
is likely to be the earlier of the two. An X-ray (fig. 4)
shows the painting to be quite freely executed with a
varied and looser initial arrangement of the Saviour’s
drapery; it also reveals that He was painted over a
reduced version of Titian’s Aldobrandini Madonna
(London, National Gallery), a canvas which once
bore the date 1533.10 The Vienna canvas is less
direct in address, with Christ shown as a pensive
pantocrator; it would have made an appropriate gift
for the introspective emperor.


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