Newly Arisen


In the latest issue of the Burlington Magazine Artur Rosenauer has published a previously unseen painting of the Risen Christ as an early Titian of around 1511. The painting, measuring 144 x 116,5 cm. was in the Bülow Collection in the nineteenth century until 1929 when it went to Uruguay. It is now in a private collection in Europe. A spectacular find, especially if it is indeed by Titian. It is rare that genuine pictures by such well-described great masters, especially non-portraits, surface.

Not having seen the picture firsthand, I am necessarily cautious about expressing a firm opinion, but I will venture a few words anyway. This is the internet after all! The detail of the sunrise landscape reproduced in the magazine does indeed look like Titian could have painted it, what with its thinly laid down saplings silhouetted against lit skies and moist nuancing of purples in blue. The beuatiful passage of light striking the cloud lining, however, seem a little too embellished to me, a little to meticulously done. Similar passages in such masterworks by Titian as the Ancona Pala Gozzi or the Brescia Risen Christ are broader and more suggestive in execution, content let thickly yet judiciously applied pigment do the work without the kind of local specification and maintenance of contour seen along the cloudline here. But then, those pictures are large altarpieces meant to be seen from afar, while this is more of an intimate, if not necessarily private, devotional work.

More problematic is the body of Christ and the drapery around his thigh. The former seems to be of high finish, almost marbleish if somewhat pasty in its surface and appear to lack the depth of flesh tone seen in Titian. As for the latter, it is rather flat and covers up what is clearly disjointed anatomy. Plus Christ’s left hand is weakly articulated. When compared to the the analogous St. Sebastian in the allegedly contemporaneous San Marco altarpiece in the Salute Church, the shortcomings of the present work should be clear. Also, the very frontal pose and the remarkable, strangely flat, trompe l’oeil presentation of the tomb (isn’t this unprecedented around 1511?) are unchracteristic of Titian as I know him, as is the round, boyish head, the very specific character of which suggests to me a date decades later.

I realize that all these reservations are possibly hyper-critical. No painter retains the same high level throughout their work and it is an impressive painting highly reminiscent of Titian’s work. Also, it seems very damaged. The background is clearly very abraded, in the rock at left as well as the clouds, sky and banner in the upper part of the canvas. Rosenauer hardly discusses the painting’s condition at all, so it is hard to know whether certain parts might be reworked by later hands and, if so, to what extent. Such overpaint might account for some of the reservations I have with resepect to the description of the figure itself.

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