Artibus et Historiae no. 3 (II)

1981, ISSN 0391-9064

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DAVID ROSAND - Titian and the Eloquence of the Brush

Focusing on the Rape of Europa in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, this paper proposes to address the problem of interpreting Titian's brushwork. Il colorito alla veneziana, as it evolved in the later Cinquecento, implies the act of coloring, the manipulation of pigment, the operation of the brush. Characterized by an open pictorial structure, a fabric of individuated brush strokes, colorito defines itself by its process, achieving its most persuasive expression in the later paintings of Titian. To what extent can we pretend to understand that eloquence, to comprehend its intention, to measure the presumably expressive nuances of brushwork against legitimately Cinquecento standards? Must we dissociate the mimetic impulse of the stroke, its referential function, from its self-expression? Can we legitimately claim meaning for the brushwork itself - that is, for l'arte? Is there a meaning initiating in the artist, a meaning that may itself be mediated by the imitated subject matter but that resides essentially in the visible traces of the painter's gesture, meaning in which we hear his own voice?

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