Tizianello’s Life of Titian


Odoardo Fialetti after Agostino Carracci after Titian, Portrait of Titian, c. 1622, Etching, 150 x 120 mm , Hamburg, Kunsthalle

As generous as she was towards Fialetti, Lady Arundel was also towards Tiziano Vecellio, known as Tizianello, the great-nephew of the great master of the same name. Lady Arundel’s agenda in Venice becomes particularly clear in this peculiar case of attraction and betrayal. Tizianello was to travel with Lady Arundel to London via Genoa to work as a court artist there and accepted a rather handsome amount of money in advance. He then decided not to follow through on his promise, causing the request for diplomatic intervention.

First and most of all, however, the painter dedicated Titian’s first vita to the Countess. In the Breve Compendio della Vita del Famoso Titiano of 1622, the most important dates on the artist’s life can be found compiled for the first time. The biography also contains a portrait of Titian engraved by Odoardo Fialetti. Even if the portrait was not commissioned by the personally Countess, but by the publisher Santo Grillo, it is safe to assume it was Fialetti’s relationship with Lady Arundel which was decisive for this commission to her Venice compagnion. The Compendio was newly edited in 1809 by Francesco Accordini.

From Tizianello’s dedication to Lady Arundel, we learn a lot about the self-image of the Countess and her relationship to Tizianello. Despite the hyperboles typical of dedications, it can be read as a sign of respect and reverence for both the countess and the deceased master, whose memory was supposedly ennobled by the dedication to this outstanding English personality. Tizianello goes so far as to equate Lady Arundel’s position with that of the English king himself. In addition to her intelligence, he praises her taste in art and her study of painting, in particular her appreciation of the works of Titian, which, according to Tizianello, would adorn her famous gallery in large numbers. He dedicates the vita of the most famous Venetian artist to her because of her art expertise, “per studio particolare e gusto, ch’Ella, e gl’Illustrissimi ed Eccellentissimi Signori suoi figliuoli hanno osto e pongono nello studio”. The full dedication text reads:

„All’eccellenza illustrissima di Madama di Arundell Surrey ec./ La Vita del gran Tiziano Vecellio Pittore e Cavaliere, scritta fedelmente da gentiluomo studioso dell’opere sue, ho voluto dedicare a Vostra Eccellenza, sì perchè mi serva per attestazione, benchè lieve, dell’infinita mia osservanza; come perchè non potva meglio onorare la memoria del suddetto Tiziano, dal cui sangue io derivo, che con il Regio nome di lei, come quella che non colo Gran Brettagna riesce di stupore; ma nell’Italia tutta, e particolarmente in Venezia si è fatta conoscere di tanta prudenza, che il Re medesimo della suddetta Gran Brettagna, e l’Eccellentissimo Senato, quegli con Regie Lettere, e questi con pubblici decreti, e favori soliti a farsi a Regi, l’hanno onorata. E tanto più doveva dedicarla a Vostra Eccellenza, per studio particolare e gusto, ch’Ella, e gl’Illustrissimi ed Eccellentissimi Signori suoi figliuoli hanno osto e pongono nello studio della pittura; da che si vede quanto brami di ridurre i predetti suoi figluoli qual è l’Illustrissimo ed Eccellentissimo Sig. Conte di Arundell e Surrey ec. suo marito, gran Consigliero della Maestà d’Inghilterra, gran Maresciallo di quel Regno, e Cavaliere dell’ordine Rgio della Giarrettiera, ripieno di tutte quelle virtù che al Regio loro sangue si convengono. S’aggiunge ancora, che i tanto più doveva dedicarla a Vostra Eccellenza, per la stima che il suddetto Illustrissimo ed Eccellentissimo suo marito ed Ella fanno delle opere di Tiziano; delle quali sono copiosamente ornate le sue famosissime Gallerie; e per quell’onorato testimonio, che si è degnato quel Signor Illustrissimo ed Eccellentissimo di fare delle mie fatiche di pittura, che da un suo gentiluomo Italiano gli sono state portate in quel regno. Gradisca Vostra Eccellenza l’animo mio riverente e divoto, con accettare benignamente questo picciola dono, riguardando alla Regia sua grandezza, e rimirando l’altissimo desiderio mio di sempre servirla, con l’illustrissimo ed Eccellentissimo Signor Conte suo consorte, e gl’Illustrissimo ed Eccellentissimo Signori suoi figliuoli, à quali, ed a Vostra Eccellenza m’inchino. Di Venezia addì Agosto 1622. Di Vostra Eccellenza Illustrissima Umilissimo e Divotissimo Servitore Tiziano Vecellio Pittore.“

Tizianello put together the compilation of facts on his granduncle’s life and most important works, but broke his promise to accompany Lady Arundel to London, a mandate for which he had already accepted a hefty compensation. The reason given by Tizianello was that he was afraid that the Countess was planning to travel to Spain from Genoa. In view of the extremely difficult relations between the Serenissima and Spain, this was a defamation that was immediately recognized as such (even if it might not have been entirely untrue as we will see in one of the next articles). On behalf of Lady Arundel, the English ambassador lodged a complaint with the Doge, who gave instructions to arrest the painter. Isaac Wake’s message to the Senate of March 11, 1625 summarizes the case as follows:

„I pass from a public to a matter. The Countess of Arundel arranged with the painter, Titian Titianelo, and paid him to go to England to paint some pictures for her. Not content with deceiving her and taking her money he has gone on to slander her saying he did not go because he feared she would take him to Spain, whither she was going from Genoa. The earl and countess are much incensed and ask your Serenity for justice. I ask you to put him in prison. He is unworthy of the anger of persons of such rank. I will be the first to ask pardon for him. The doge returned thanks for the news. The ambassador would always be welcome. They regretted the bad behaviour of the painter, Titiano. They would endeavour to make him conscious of his error and satisfy the countess and her husband. Accordingly, when the ambassador left the Cabinet, the Avogador Vendramino was charged to arrest the painter“ (Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice 18).


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