Category: Art
Titians Assunta | Renaissance Culture


Titian is referred to as one of the most eminent and successful artists in the whole history. He was considered as the leading artist, the founder of the Venetian school of Italian Renaissance and the greatest Venetian artist of the 16th century.

Tiziano Vecellio, known as Titian, was born in 1488 in Pieve di Cadore, north of Venice. At the age of 9 Titian and his brother Francesco arrived to their uncle in Venice in order to study at the workshop of the mosaicist Sebastiano Zuccati.  Soon afterwards Titian decided to study painting from Giovanni Bellini. His first certain work (1507-1508) are the frescoes on the exterior of the German Merchants’ Exchange in Venice, Titian created them in collaboration with Giorgione – another outstanding pupil of Bellini. These two painters collaborated so closely at that time that their styles became inextricably intertwined.

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Titian affected and contributed profoundly to most of the main areas of Renaissance art. The artist is famous for painting portraits, mythologies, altarpieces, and pastoral landscapes with figures. He was an unsurpassed master of portraits and landscapes, mythological and religious subjects, which brought him fame at once. The Assumption of the Virgin (Assunta) is one of the most famous masterpieces created by Titian. The painting affected largely the Renaissance culture.

The Historical Background of the Painting

The Reinvention of Rome altered all the genres of art during the Renaissance.  That period was associated with the rise of the Christian church and that is why the art was considered as biblical. Furthermore, the church was a patron of art and supported the arts largely. A wide range of paintings, monuments and sculptures dedicated to biblical themes were created. The church could afford to purchase most of those artworks. Moreover, the artists usually received the orders to create certain paintings and monuments. The most outstanding renowned monuments among them are the Pantheon, the Sistine Chapel and the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.  When Titian got the commission to paint the Assunta, it was considered as the largest altarpiece that had ever been constructed in Venice.

Why Assunta Extends past the Time

In Assunta Titian combined two essential biblical events. They are the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and the Coronation. The theme of Coronation was represented by the painter in a horizontal format. It may be explained by the fact that the thematic content of Coronation provides more scope for drama and innovation represented in a tall, arched format. This masterpiece highlights that the church exerted considerable influence on art in Renaissance Italy.

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One should point out that the Assunta was not accepted by the patron, Fra Germano, Guardian of the Franciscan order. On the one hand, the reason is that the human forms depicted by Titian were considered too sensual for the Renaissance. Aurenhammer asserts that “the face of Mary is expressing ecstasy in a human type” (1149). It was not appropriate for the Renaissance. It is mostly due to the fact that the biblical personalities could not be depicted with human features and emotions. On the other hand, the Assunta is ultimately subjective that was not characteristic of the epoch. Thus, it suggests an idea of “how people would personally react to it” (Aurenhammer 1148). It proves that the painting extended past the time of the Renaissance.

The Qualities of the Painting and the Renaissance Culture

The art critics of Titian’s painting conclude that his subjects are considered more dynamic in their gestures and more powerfully built compared to the relatively timid and angular figures typical for the earlier altarpieces. Delaforce assumes that “there is a state of vivacity and upward movement, showed with the help of the shifts of light and dark within the depicted zones of Madonna, disciples, God and angels” (132). The original color combinations and contrasts in representing themes and images of the paintings were not typical for most artists of the Renaissance culture. In this aspect Titian was considered as an originator. The artist contributed largely to the development of the Renaissance art with the innovative color technique. Aurenhammer points out the Assunta’s stylistic importance and assumes “that its unveiling announced the beginning of the classical High Renaissance in Venice” (1150). The gestures of the images are both dramatic and dynamic. One may conclude that it is the essential feature of the Renaissance art culture. It is necessary to add that Titian’s breadth of form and dramatic gestures bear certain resemblance to the art of Raphael, and may be compared to Raphael’s Assumption. Moreover, some art critics assume that Titian could have seen preliminary sketches of that artwork around the time he was proposed the commission for his Assunta.

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The Color and Images Analysis

Assumption of the Virgin in the Frari is based on the sonorous accord of three major colors: blue, red and green. Titian achieves the combination of richness and intensity of hues in the individual colors. Campbell concludes that Titian’s intention “to present these primary hues at such a level of saturated intensity and his way of putting them together is, by all means, an aesthetics matter” (316). Thus, Titian limits his colors aimed at bringing them into an original kind of accord.

In Titian’s painting one may feel the emotions and personality of every depicted image at that moment. The Virgin Mary is portrayed as a beautiful and powerful woman. The disciples are shocked and amazed when they witness her levitation.  The artist emphasizes the raised arms of the disciples that catch the viewer’s eye.  On the contrary, the foreshortening of the image of the Virgin does not let the eye rest, before it joins the sweeping group of angels in the heaven. Titian shows that the God and the angels are pleased as they receive The Virgin Mary.  The critics assume that Titian truly captured the essence of the story.

The artist’s attention to detail is surprising. Titian was the originator of the unique colorization technique in the Renaissance art. One may notice a sharp color contrast between orange and blue on the robe and realistic shading in the images of people. The difference between heaven and earth is vivid because of Titian’s choice of colors.  Thus, Heaven is bright and wonderful with a burst of sunshine. And earth is depicted grey and dull compared to Heaven.  


The artist contributed largely to the development of the Renaissance art. Titian’s paintings, both secular and religious, create a Venetian counterpart to High Renaissance style. These masterpieces are characterized with the usage of the traditional Venetian color resources, the atmosphere and brushstrokes. Titian’s artworks are considered equally complex, monumental, and dynamic. Titian influenced exceedingly later artists and developed the oil technique with free and expressive brushwork. Titian’s most talented students were El Greco and Tintoretto.

Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin (Assunta) bears many significant qualities of the Renaissance. Nevertheless, it also extends past the time it belonged to. Titian included some features that were essential for the later art streams. The artist had been creating this oil painting for two years intending to portray the real feelings of the personalities of his painting. It is true that the painter dedicated his heart and time to the masterpiece. Titian was the originator of the unique colorization technique in the Renaissance art.

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