No-one knows for sure when Tiziano Vecelli or Vecellio (the artist best know as Titian) was born. Could have been 1477 though probaly not as that would have made him around 99 when he died. More likely the man who later became known as the leader of the Venetian school of the Italian Renaissance was born between 1488 and 1490 in Pieve di Cadore near Belluno (Veneto) in Italy. Whatever the date he lived a long long life by the standards of the 16th-century and he was well into his 80s when he succumbed to a plague that raged through Venice in 1576.
He was from a family of 4, the son of Gregorio Vecelli and his wife Lucia. By the age of 15 he had already been in Venice for 5 years studying under the mosaicist, Sebastian Zuccato and had entered the studio of the most respected artist in the city, the elderly Giovanni Bellini. Fellow students included Lorenzo Lotto and Sebastiano Luciani. Another student was Giorgione whom he went into partnership with. Working o close together their early work became hard to tell apart. What was Titian could have been Giorgione and vice versa. But their work to Venice of the day was that of 2 young masters.
With and without Giorgione, up to his early 20s Titian worked on frescoes in northern Italy including ones that were state sponsored. Then, in 1512, he returned to Venice and the following year he obtained what was known as a broker's patent in the in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi and his reponsibilities included completing the unfinished works of Giovanni Bellini in the hall of the great council in the ducal palace. This he began in 1516 when Bellini died. The patent afforded him a comfortable living.
With the death of Bellini and that of Giorgione 6 years previously, Titian was the undisputed leader of the Venetian School. From such a position his art could develop as he wanted. Thus from 1516-30, he attempted far more complex subject matter and attempted the monumental style that the work of his youth had not come close to. He worked around northern Italy and his work became much in demand. Work in this period included the series of the small Madonnas and in 1530 The Beneath of St. Peter of Verona.
In his mid-to-late-30s, he married Cecilia. Their children included Pomponio , Orazio and Lavinia. His wife died in 1530 whilst giving birth to Lavinia.
Also in this period (mid-1520s) he enjoyed what scholars call a 'close and intimate relationship' (work that one out!) with the playwright Pietro Aretino.
From his 40s to his 60s, his style became more and more dramatic and was the period in which he mastered movement and tumult in his work. Works from this period inlcuded Speech of the Marquis del Vasto (1541) and Ecce Homo (also 1541). He also undertok his series of reclining Venuses. He also continued what early in his career he had been celebrated for: his great portraits. These included the great and the good, among them Pope Paul III and King Charles V.
Honours were afforded him in this period. By the emperor Charles V in Bologna he was made a count palatine and knight of the Golden Spur; in 1546 he was given the freedom of Rome. Tragedy struck him again in 1560 as like her mother his beloved daughter Lavinia died whilst giving child birth.
He was a perfectionist and in his final years he returned again and again to some of his paintings to retouch them. He could afford to be. He was a rich man who never made a secret of his liking for money. Thus he accepted commissions to the last.
When he died approaching 90 he was interred in the Frari (Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari) near his painting, the Madonna di Ca' Pesaro.
Portrait of John Calvin