Artibus et Historiae no. 68 (XXXIV)

2013, ISSN 0391-9064

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ALLISON SHERMAN - Murder and Martyrdom: Titian’s Gesuiti Saint Lawrence as a Family Peace Offering (pp. 39-54)

For centuries viewers have been captivated by Titian’s first version of the fiery demise of Saint Lawrence in Venice’s Chiesa dei Gesuiti. This study returns this innovative work to its original context in the lost church of the Crociferi, and presents new evidence for the circumstances of its commission. While it has long been established fact that the work was produced for the altar of Lorenzo Massolo and his wife Elisabetta Querini – the learned and beautiful muse of Pietro Bembo and Giovanni della Casa – what has never been entirely clear are their motivations for the selection of the altar in the Crociferi church and the rather unconventional choice for a dramatic scene of martyrdom to decorate it. The answer to these questions involves a brutal murder, a renegade monk, penitential parents and an intricate web of relationships and alliances between powerful patricians and literati that when unravelled, deepens our understanding of the violence of Titian’s masterpiece.

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