Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting

Masterworks of the Venetian Renaissance Presented at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in May 2011

Exceptional exhibition with the National Galleries of Scotland brings two of Titian’s greatest paintings to the U.S. public; 25 works in total showcase the genius and splendor of Renaissance Venice 

Houston—February 2011—Beginning May 22, 2011, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in conjunction with the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS), the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, will present 25 masterworks of the Venetian Renaissance—13 paintings and 12 drawings—that include two of the greatest paintings of the Italian Renaissance: Titian’s Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto (1556–1559). The two paintings have never before traveled to the United States. The exhibition will also include paintings by Tintoretto, Veronese and Lotto from the collection of the National Galleries.

The MFAH’s presentation of Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland culminates the American tour of this exhibition, which debuted at the High in October 2010. To commemorate the landmark exhibition, the MFAH will produce a comprehensive publication to place the Diana paintings in the context of both Titian’s life’s work and of their extraordinary history.

In addition to Titian’s Diana paintings, Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting will include 11 other paintings that illuminate the depth of the National Galleries of Scotland’s collection of Venetian Renaissance works. The paintings—among them Titian’s Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Venus Rising from the Sea; Lorenzo Lotto’s Virgin and Child with Saints; Jacopo Tintoretto’s Christ Carried to the Tomb; and Jacopo Bassano’s Adoration of the Magi—will be accompanied by 12 drawings by Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese and other Venetian Renaissance artists.

The Legendary Diana Paintings of Titian
Originally commissioned by King Phillip II of Spain as part of a series of six paintings, Titian’s Diana paintings were acquired by the Duke of Orleans in the 18th century. The Diana paintings then entered the private Bridgewater Collection following the French Revolution and passed by descent to the 5th Earl of Ellesmere, who became the 6th Duke of Sutherland and who placed the pair on long-term loan to the National Galleries of Scotland in 1945. In 2008, the National Galleries of Scotland, together with the National Gallery of London, were given the opportunity to acquire these works so that they may remain in a public collection in the United Kingdom. In less than five months, the National Galleries of Scotland and London secured the funds to acquire Diana and Actaeon for the nation. The painting will be shared by the two institutions. Currently the two institutions are in the midst of a campaign to acquire Diana and Callisto, to ensure that both of Titian’s Diana paintings remain in public collections in the U.K. 

Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto
Titian’s Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto were both painted for King Philip II of Spain between 1556 and 1559, at the height of Titian’s career. Part of a series of six large mythological pictures made for the King, the Diana paintings accompanied the Danaë and Venus and Adonis (both at The Prado, Madrid); Perseus and Andromeda (Wallace Collection, London) and the Rape of Europa (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston). The Diana paintings, completed when Titian was in his 70s, are the penultimate works in the series of scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and represent the Venetian master’s accumulated skill and experience. Designed as a pair—a stream flows from one to the other—one painting tells the story of the goddess Diana as she learns that her handmaiden Callisto is pregnant by Jupiter; the other depicts the moment Diana and her nymphs are caught bathing by the hunter Actaeon. The Diana paintings are richer in chromatic range and compositional complexity than their predecessors.

“These two paintings have long been recognized as among Titian’s very finest creations and as supreme masterpieces of Venetian Renaissance art,” commented John Leighton, Director of the National Galleries of Scotland. “Their ambitious scale, the masterful unity of color and subject matter, the art-historical significance and their excellent condition all contribute to the fame and reputation of these works.”

Titian (c.1485-90–1576) was the greatest of all Venetian Renaissance artists. The technical wizardry, narrative skill and psychological insight he brought to his works have ensured they remain among the most highly prized of all Renaissance masterpieces. He was initially associated with the painter Giorgione, with whom he shared an interest in landscape settings for lyrical, secular and sacred scenes. Artistically Titian reached full maturity with his commission for the altarpiece of the Assumption of the Virgin (The Frari, Venice; completed 1518). He worked with remarkable success on a wide variety of works—portraits, mythological scenes, allegories and altarpieces—and painted for the greatest patrons of his age, including Emperor Charles V (who knighted him in 1533) and the King Philip II of Spain. He also worked for the leading families of Venice, Mantua, Ferrara, Urbino and Rome.

A variety of educational programs and events will be offered for the public. Cell phone audio tours and Mcast downloadable audio tours will be available throughout the exhibition. Programs and activities especially designed for families will explore various themes in the exhibition.

Exhibition Organization
Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Paintingis co-organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland. In Houston, generous funding is provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc.; Mary Lawrence Porter; Fayez Sarofim and Meredith Long Exhibitions Endowment; Birgitt van Wijk; and Ms. Ann G. Trammell.

MFAH Collections
Founded in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is the largest art museum in America south of Chicago, west of Washington, D.C., and east of Los Angeles. The encyclopedic collection of the MFAH numbers nearly 60,000 works and embraces the art of antiquity to the present. Featured are the finest artistic examples of the major civilizations of Europe, Asia, North and South America, and Africa. Italian Renaissance paintings, French Impressionist works, photographs, American and European decorative arts, African and Pre-Columbian gold, American art, and European and American paintings and sculpture from post-1945 are particularly strong holdings. Recent additions to the collections include Rembrandt van Rijn’sPortrait of a Young Woman (1633), the Heiting Collection of Photography, a major suite of Gerhard Richter paintings, an array of important works by Jasper Johns, a rare, second-century Hellenistic bronzeHead of Poseidon/Antigonos Doson, major canvases by 19th-century painters Gustave Courbet and J.M.W. Turner, Albert Bierstadt’s Indians Spear Fishing (1862), distinguished work by the leading 20th- and 21st-century Latin American artists, and The Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art.

MFAH Hours and Admission            
Hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.; and Sunday, 12:15–7 p.m. The museum is closed on Monday, except for holidays.

Admission to Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland will require a timed-entry ticket that also includes general admission to the museum.

Museum members will receive a set number of complimentary tickets based on their level of membership and will have a priority opportunity to make reservations before tickets are released to the general public. Pre-sale for members is March 8—13, 2011; tickets go on sale to the public March 14, 2011.

General admission, Tuesdays through Sundays, to Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland will be $17 for adults and $13 for children 6—18, students, and senior adults (65+). Admission will be free for children 5 and under, but they will need a ticket to enter the exhibition.

On Thursdays, admission will be $15 for adults and $10 for children 6–18, students, and senior adults (65+).

Museum visitors may also opt to purchase a premium untimed ticket that will allow them one admission to the exhibition at the time/day of their choice during the run of the exhibition. Tickets are valid during museum hours. These tickets are not eligible for senior/student/child (ages 6–18) discounts. The general public can purchase the tickets for $25; members can purchase the tickets for $12.50.

General Information
For information, the public may call 713-639-7300, or visit www.mfah.org. For information in Spanish, call 713-639-7379. TDD/TYY for the hearing impaired, call 713-639-7390. For membership information, call 713-639-7550 or email membership@mfah.org.

For more information, please contact:
MFAH Communications