Artibus et Historiae no. 72 (XXXVI)

2015, ISSN 0391-9064

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GIORGIO TAGLIAFERRO - A New Agony in the Garden by Titian and His Collaborators, and the Problem of Originality in Late Titian (pp. 107-126)

Throughout his career, and especially in the last three decades of his life, Titian issued from his workshop a sizeable number of variants and replicas of compositions of any subject and format. The circulation of so many paintings was boosted by a huge request from collectors across Europe, and helped Titian to establish himself as a widely celebrated artist. Over the years, the master developed an unconventional working method that privileged the unevenness of the pictorial surface over uniformity and homogeneity, thus emphasising the process of art-making. Indeed, it is especially for his peculiar, idiosyncratic handling of the brush that he was renowned, and his paintings sought after. Furthermore, this technique matched up with the cult of the personality that Titian himself fostered. At the same time, however, several of the variants and replicas produced in the late years raise the problem of how the collaboration with assistants affected the notion itself of authorship and originality. How did his innovative technique, which highlighted his virtuosity and individuality, go with the documented, extensive contribution by his collaborators? Moreover, if each variant or replica received a unique, distinctive pictorial treatment, can we still draw a clear line between originals and derivations?

By presenting a previously unpublished version of Titian’s Agony in the Garden, whose composition is known through a painting executed for Philip II and now in the monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial, this study seeks to discuss and establish a new theory of the nature of authorship in Titian’s late collaborative works. The new painting is here acknowledged as a joint work by the master and his collaborators, and stands as an example of how the novel aesthetics developed by Titian tolerated and perhaps even encouraged the incorporation of different hands into many of his late works.

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