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  • Writer's pictureBeyond the Canvas

Titian's Sacra Conversazione at Fondazione Magnani-Rocca

They call it the Villa of the Masterpieces for good reason. The Fondazione Magnani-Rocca 's collection boasts a Titian of such sublime quality that the likes of the National Gallery or the Louvre would be lucky to have it. It's one of those jaw-dropping pieces that you could easily build an entire exhibition around.

Titian the undisputed revolutionary of the Venetian Renaissance and beyond, his many inventions are far-reaching and influential to this day. This magnificent Sacra Conversazione - a genre of religious painting developed in the 15th century in which saints are grouped in a unified space around the Virgin, often enthroned, and Child in a single panel - painted c. 1513 displays a few of them.

Titian the master of colour unleashes his bold and refined palette. Saint Catherine is draped in a shimmery light lilac dress, while a green mantle falls from her shoulders. The Virgin's bright red and blue garments illuminate the canvas making her and the Child the focal point of the altarpiece. These striking chromatic tones push them forward from the dark brown background, also one of Titian's innovative devices.

Conversely, the two figures on the right are painted with far greater economy of colour. The white of San Domenico's tunic is wedged between his own and the donor's black mantle. Behind them, Titian opens a window onto a dramatic landscape where nature is wild and full of pathos.

Last but not least, most holy conversations are infused with an aura of stillness and meditation, no one is actually conversing with anyone as they are too busy praying or reading. Not this one: the asymmetry and the levelled placement of the figures in this luminous, balanced composition create an extraordinary, palpable flow of engagement and emotion.

"Sacra Conversazione", Titian c. 1513

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