Titian is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of the 16th century. Not only is the artist greatly respected today, but he also had great success during his own lifetime. Today, one of his earliest works from when he was just a teenager, The Flight Into Egypt, is on view at the National Gallery. The 505 year old artwork is on loan from the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg and has recently undergone significant restoration which took just over 12 years. This is the first time the work has been out of Russia since 1768 and it is unknown when it will return to the UK again.
At the time in which the painting was constructed, Titian was working for Giorgione and many works by his contemporaries and his masters are on show at the exhibition. including his other master, Bellini, as well as studies by Durer. The huge work was commissioned by Andrea Loredan for his palace on the grand Canal in Venice, it depicts the holy family riding through a landscape, alive with nature, despite having just escaped King Herod.
The exhibition begins with portraits of Titian’s early patrons and then leads onto the work of his contemporaries, showing the interest on landscapes and nature at the time. In most cases the backgrounds and landscapes are just as vivid, if not more so as the subjects in the foreground, harmonising landscape and figures. Interestingly however, the landscape in Titian’s masterpiece is not Egypt but that of the alps where the artist grew up.
This exhibition is well worth a visit, especially as it has been unseen to Briton’s previously. There is an excellent display explaining the artist’s inspiration and influence by the inclusion of excellent work from his contemporaries.
Titian’s First Masterpiece: The Flight Into Egypt is on show at the National Gallery until August 19