Who served as prototypes for the “strange picture” of the brilliant Italian
During the life of Titian Vecellio da Cadore was awarded the title of “King of painters and painters of kings” by his contemporaries. He was considered the best portrait painter of his time, and to be imprinted on his canvas meant to gain eternal immortality. Whom the great Titian immortalized on the allegorical canvas of the late period – further in the review.
Titian lived a long and fruitful creative life, which spanned almost three quarters of the turbulent 16th century. He had to endure both the years of the highest prosperity and the years of the deepest crisis of the whole culture of the Renaissance of Italy. Being widely demanded, he carried out orders of kings and Roman popes, cardinals, dukes, princes and was recognized as the best painter of Venice when he was not even 30 years old. The artistic heritage of this great master of the great epoch on its scale surpassed the work of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo, taken together.
In old age, living out his days alone and rethinking what he experienced, Titian, apparently, remembered his old picture-allegory “Three Ages” (1512) and in response to his reflections the artist wrote an unusual painting “Allegory of Time, managed by Prudence”, at the top of which he inscribed in Latin: “Ex praeterito praesens predenter agit, ni futurum actione deturpet”, which translates as: “Relying on the past, the present comes wisely, so as not to harm the future.” This message, which is the key to deciphering the allegory of this canvas, and the picture itself should be interpreted as Titian’s testament, addressed to descendants.
In contrast to the “Three Ages”, the new allegory “Prudence” is read counterclockwise: on the left – an old man in a red cap, in the center – a black-bearded mature man, on the right – a young man in profile. Under this triad of persons is depicted “a three-headed animal with the heads of a wolf devouring the past; a lion personifying the power of the present; a dog awakening the future.”
Until some time it was believed that the canvas depicted: on the left – Pope Julius II or Paul III, in the center – the Duke Alfonso d’Este, on the right – Charles V. But the researchers of the artist’s work proved that Titian thought least of all when working on this allegory about the deceased once rulers. And that he was not thinking about death, but about life, portraying himself and two people so dear to him – beloved son Orazio and his young nephew Marco Vechellio.
Titian found an extraordinary way to express the trinity of Prudence on his canvas. The master has rightfully compared the image of a man of mature years to the image of a powerful lion – the ruler of this world; gullible young man – the image of a young dog, carrying his service; wise old man, who knows life well, with the weak and lonely – the image of a wolf.
As you can see, Titian’s hawk-like profile, personifying the past, is the same person as in the famous self-portrait in Prado, dating from the same period as Allegory. Titian at that time was already under 80. Understanding that the past, like the future, is less “real” than the present, the artist still depicted it shining from an excess of light.
In the center of the canvas is the devoted son of Orazio Vecellio, who, being the exact opposite of his evil brother Pomponio, was a loyal assistant to his father throughout his life. Then he turned 45 years old.
The third young person in profile, personifying the future, belongs to the artist’s nephew – Marco Vecellio, whom he took into the house and surrounded by care. By the time Titian wrote The Allegory, he was just over 20 years old. And, therefore, he seems to be the concluding link of three generations of the Vecellio family.
In Christian iconography, the three-headed wolf-lion-dog serves as a symbol of Prudence and its three components: memoria (“memory”), intelligentia (“knowledge”), prudentia (“experience”). The language of symbols used in their work by many artists.