This painting is regarded as one of the finest of all Titian’s portraits. Doge Andrea Gritti’s ferocious expression and imposing figure convey an awe-inspiring authority. Titian’s handling of paint is boldly sketchy and energetic throughout. The architecture of Gritti’s face is emphasized with rich impasto (thick buildup of paint), and the extravagance of his robes is communicated through sheen and highlights.
Andrea Gritti (1455–1538) first came to public attention among Venetians in 1502, when following several years of residence in Constantinople, where he had been active both as a grain merchant and as a spy, he was instrumental in negotiating a peace treaty with the Turks. He was appointed commissioner of the Venetian army and eventually elected doge in 1523. Gritti had a highly ambitious, even autocratic personality. Despite his impatience with the complexities of the Venetian constitution, he nevertheless succeeded in becoming one of the most effective and influential of all post-medieval doges and played a major role as a patron of art and architecture.
The forceful hand gesture in Gritti’s portrait may be a quotation of
The composition and character of the portrait suggest that it was conceived not as an official image for a public building, but rather as a private commission, and subsequently remained in the possession of the Gritti family. The work gives powerful expression both to the majesty of the office of doge and to the physical and intellectual vitality of Gritti the man.
Since its cleaning soon after its arrival in America in 1954, the picture has been universally regarded as one of the finest of all
Joseph Archer Crowe and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, A History of Painting in North Italy (London, 1871), 2:289–290; Joseph Archer Crowe and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, Titian, His Life and Times (London, 1877), 1:301; Henry Thode, Tintoretto (Bielefeld, 1901), 118; August L. Mayer, “A propos d’un nouveau livre sur le Titien,” Gazette des beaux-arts 18 (December 1937): 308.
Rodolfo Pallucchini, Tiziano: Lezioni di storia dell’arte (Bologna, 1953), 1:165, 203–205.
Andrea Gritti (1455–1538) was a prominent figure in Venetian public life long before his election as doge in 1523.
Authoritative biographies of Doge Gritti include those by Niccolò Barbarigo, Vita di Andrea Gritti Doge di Venezia, trans. Celestino Volpi (Venice, 1793); Andrea Da Mosto, I dogi di Venezia (Venice, 1939), 290–303; Ivone Cacciavillani, Andrea Gritti nella vita di Nicolò Barbarigo (Venice, 1995). Summary accounts and studies of particular aspects of his career include those by Frederic Lane, Venice: A Maritime Republic (Baltimore, 1973), 208; Robert Finlay, “Politics and the Family in Renaissance Venice: The Election of Doge Andrea Gritti,” Studi Veneziani, n.s. 2 (1978): 97–117; J. R. Hale, “Andrea Gritti,” in A Concise Encyclopaedia of the Italian Renaissance, ed. J. R. Hale (New York, 1981), 164; Robert Finlay, “Fabius Maximus in Venice: Doge Andrea Gritti, the War of Cambrai, and the Rise of Habsburg Hegemony, 1509–1530,” Renaissance Quarterly 53 (2000): 988–1031.
Despite the constraints of his office, and through the force of his personality, Doge Gritti played a major role as a patron of art and architecture, which he saw as a powerful weapon of political ideology.
For Gritti as a patron of art in the context of his wider cultural policy, see Deborah Howard, Jacopo Sansovino: Architecture and Patronage in Renaissance Venice (New Haven and London, 1975), 4–6; Manfredo Tafuri, ed., “Renovatio Urbis”: Venezia nell’età di Andrea Gritti, 1523–1538 (Rome, 1984); Deborah Howard, “Andrea Gritti,” in The Dictionary of Art, ed. Jane Turner (New York and London, 1996), 13:678.
Charles Hope, “Titian as Official Painter to the Venetian Republic,” in Tiziano e Venezia: Convegno internazionale di studi (1976) (Vicenza, 1980), 304, plausibly argued that the succession portrait was one of two works by Titian in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio reported to be in progress in 1537; for the payment of 1540, see Wilhelm von Bode, Georg Gronau, and Detlev von Haldeln, Archivalische Beiträge zur Geschichte der venezianischen Kunst aus dem Nachlass Gustav Ludwigs (Berlin, 1911), 134.
Gritti’s features are reliably recorded in a number of contemporary portraits, apart from these last two by Titian: in the votive relief of 1523 by an anonymous sculptor from the chapel of San Niccolò (now chapel of San Clemente, church of San Marco); on the
Andrea Gritti, 1455–1538, Doge of Venice 1523, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1957.14.1006.a.
See Peter Humfrey in The Age of Titian: Venetian Renaissance Art from Scottish Collections, ed. Aidan Weston-Lewis (Edinburgh, 2004), 128–129, and since sold at Sotheby’s, London, December 7, 2016, lot 14, as Workshop of Titian. A better-known version is the one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no. 32.100.85: see Federico Zeri, with Elizabeth E. Gardner, Italian Paintings: Venetian School. A Catalogue of the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1973), 76–77; Lionello Puppi, “Iconografia di Andrea Gritti,” in “Renovatio Urbis”: Venezia nell’età di Andrea Gritti, 1523–1538, ed. Manfredo Tafuri (Rome, 1984), 218–219; Annette Weber, Venezianische Dogenporträts des 16. Jahrhunderts (Sigmaringen, 1993), 50–51, 122–125.
For this profile type, see Annette Weber, Venezianische Dogenporträts des 16. Jahrhunderts (Sigmaringen, 1993), 51–54.
In composition and character, the Washington portrait is unique of its type and differs greatly from these other two well-diffused images by Titian. This suggests that it was not conceived as an official image for a public building, but was commissioned privately, and subsequently remained in the possession of the Gritti family. The question of whether it was the doge himself or a member of his family who commissioned the portrait clearly depends on the much-debated question of its date. Oskar Fischel dated it to the beginning of Gritti’s reign, circa 1523, contemporary with the Saint Christopher fresco.
Oskar Fischel, Tizian: Des Meisters Gemälde (Stuttgart [u.a.], 1904), xviii, 42.
Wilhelm Suida, Tizian (Zurich and Leipzig, 1933), 81, 157.
Georg Gronau, Titian (London, 1904), 73–74, 278; Hans Tietze, Titian: Paintings and Drawings (Vienna, 1937), caption to pl. 98.
Fern Rusk Shapley, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XV–XVI Century (London, 1968), 179–180; Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:488–490.
Mayer, however, had already argued that the figure was too colossal, and the technique too broad, for Titian’s style of the 1530s; and Pallucchini agreed that the closest point of stylistic comparison was Titian’s portrait of Pietro Aretino (Pitti, Florence), painted shortly before the painter’s journey to Rome in 1545.
August L. Mayer, “A propos d’un nouveau livre sur le Titien,” Gazette des beaux-arts 18 (December 1937): 308; Rodolfo Pallucchini, Tiziano (Florence, 1969), 1:103–104.
Harold Wethey, The Paintings of Titian (London, 1971), 2:23–24, 108–109.
Hans Ost, Tizian-Studien (Cologne, 1992), 88–96.
David Alan Brown, in Titian, Prince of Painters (Venice, 1990), 252–254; Filippo Pedrocco, Titian: The Complete Paintings (New York, 2001), 50, 189.
Peter Humfrey, Titian (London, 2007), 210–211; Miguel Falomir, in Der späte Tizian und die Sinnlichkeit der Malerei, ed. Sylvia Ferino-Pagden (Vienna, 2007), 179.
Michael Overdick, Tizian: Die späten Porträts 1545–1568 (Düsseldorf, 2010), 5–10, 59–61.
A contemporary parallel instance of the posthumous commission of the portrait of a doge by his family is provided by an entry in the account book of Lorenzo Lotto, which records that in 1542 the nobleman Giovanni Marcello commissioned a portrait of his ancestor Doge Niccolò Marcello (reigned 1473–1474).
Lorenzo Lotto, Il “Libro di spese diverse” con aggiunta di lettere e d’altri documenti, ed. Pietro Zampetti (Venice and Rome, 1969), 88–89. The work was never delivered.
Erica Tietze-Conrat plausibly suggested that Gritti is meant to be shown walking, or rather striding, in procession; according to Carlo Ridolfi, Titian portrayed two other doges in this way.
Carlo Ridolfi, Le maraviglie dell’arte, overo Le vite de gl’illustri pittori veneti, e dello stato, ed. Detlev von Hadeln (Berlin, 1914), 1:192; Erica Tietze-Conrat, “Titian’s Workshop in His Late Years,” The Art Bulletin 28 (1946): 81.
Harold Wethey, The Paintings of Titian (London, 1971), 2:23–24, 108–109.
Peter Meller, “Il lessico ritrattistico di Tiziano,” in Tiziano e Venezia: Convegno internazionale di studi (1976) (Vicenza, 1980), 328–329.
Wilhelm Suida, Tizian (Zurich and Leipzig, 1933), 81, 157.
David Alan Brown, in Titian, Prince of Painters (Venice, 1990), 252–254; Annette Weber, Venezianische Dogenporträts des 16. Jahrhunderts (Sigmaringen, 1993), 62–67.
According to Gritti’s contemporary biographer Niccolò Barbarigo, if the doge “had reason to be angry with someone, he assumed a severe and terrible aspect” (“se aveva motivo di adirarsi con taluno, assumeva un aspetto terribile e severissimo”). See Ivone Cacciavillani, Andrea Gritti nella vita di Nicolò Barbarigo (Venice, 1995), 105.
Finally, the recent revelation that the picture was originally framed as an oval (see Technical Summary, and implied by the infrared reflectogram
For this Self-Portrait (possibly identical with a picture in a private collection in Rome), see Harold Wethey, The Paintings of Titian (London, 1971), 2:179; Jaynie Anderson, “A Further Inventory of Gabriele Vendramin’s Collection,” The Burlington Magazine 121 (1979): 648. For Gabriele Vendramin and his collection, see Anderson, “A Further Inventory of Gabriele Vendramin’s Collection,” 639–648; and Nicholas Penny, National Gallery Catalogues: The Sixteenth Century Italian Paintings, vol. 2, Venice 1540–1600 (London, 2008), 225–226.
March 21, 2019
upper left, in black paint: ANDREAS GRITI DOGE / DI VENETIA; center right, in gold leaf: TITIANVS E. F. (Titian, Knight, made it); reverse, on paper: Bought for His Majesty in Italy, 1626.
 The reference is to Charles I of England; as argued by Fern Rusk Shapley, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XV-XVI Century, London, 1968: 179-180 (and Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols., Washington, 1979: 1:488-490). The paper is written in a hand that is apparently of the 17th century, but not that of the cataloger of the royal collection, Abraham van der Doort. Formerly, as reported by Karl Wilczek, Katalog der Graf Czernin'schen Gemäldegalerie in Wien, Vienna, 1936: 88-89, the royal stamp of a CR surmounted by a crown was also visible on the back of the canvas; but after the transfer of the canvas to a new strether in 1955, the stamp has been concealed.
Purchased 1626 in Italy for Charles I, King of England [1600-1649], Whitehall Palace, London; (Charles I [Commonwealth] sale, Somerset House, London, 23 October 1651); purchased by the Syndicate of the Twelfth Dividend, organized by John Jackson, lawyer. Wenzel Anton, Prince von Kaunitz-Rietburg [d. 1794]; by inheritance to Wenzel Alois, Prinz Kaunitz; (Kaunitz sale, Vienna, 13 March 1820, no. 178); purchased by Johann Rudolf, Count Czernin von Chudenitz [1757-1845], Vienna; by inheritance through the Czernin von Chudenitz family, Vienna, to Count Eugen Czernin von Chudenitz [1892-1955], Vienna, as of 1933, until at least 1948; on commission January 1954 from Willy Haene, lawyer for Czernin, with (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); sold 1954 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1961 to NGA.
Associated NamesCharles I, King of England
Czernin von Chudenitz, Eugen, Count
Czernin von Chudenitz, Johann Rudolf, Count
Czernin, The Counts
Kaunitz, Wenzel Alois, Prince
Kaunitz-Rietburg, Wenzel Anton, Prince von
Knoedler & Company, M.
Kress Foundation, Samuel H.
Syndicate of the Twelfth Dividend
- Mostra di Tiziano, Ca' Pesaro, Venice, 1935, no. 31.
- Europäische Barockmalerei aus Wiener Privatgalerien, Kunstmuseum, Bern, 1937-1948, no. 47.
- Tiziano [NGA title: Titian: Prince of Painters], Palazzo Ducale, Venice; National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1990-1991, no. 37, repro.
The painting was executed on a highly textured herringbone canvas, and since all the tacking margins are intact, the painted surface corresponds to its original dimensions.
Technical notes on the painting were published by Elizabeth Walmsley, in Der späte Tizian und die Sinnlichkeit der Malerei, ed. Sylvia Ferino-Pagden (Vienna, 2007), 471–473, including a full account and photographs of the various labels, inscriptions, and seals on the reverse.
Infrared reflectography was performed using a Santa Barbara focalplane InSb camera fitted with an H astronomy filter.
After examination of the painting in 2009, Walmsley surmised that the painting was originally framed as an oval (unpublished memorandum, copy in NGA conservation files, April 1, 2009).
The pigments were analyzed by the NGA Scientific Research department using x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) (see report dated September 2, 2015, in NGA conservation files).
Peter Humfrey and Joanna Dunn based on the examination reports by Michael Swicklik, Elizabeth Walmsley, and Kay Silberfeld
March 21, 2019
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