October 8th, 2019

Masterpieces from Antwerp and other Flemish Collections

September 5th 2019 – March 1sr 2020
Venice, Palazzo Ducale
Opening hours: Mon – Sun h.8,30 am – 7.00 pm
Last admission h.6,30 pm

If you come to Venice in winter not only you'll find the city far less crowded and with a much more pleasant weather, but you'll also enjoy the quietness inside the museums where, sometimes, stunning exhibits are held.

From Titian to Rubens showcases the highlights of Flemish collections along with a couple of dazzling works from Marnix Neerman’s private collection, Mistress Mila and their daughter Emilia by Titian and The angel foretelling Saint Catherine of Alexandria of her Martyrdom by Tintoretto, once the altarpiece of the former Church of San Geminiano in Venice.

The exhibit was made possible thanks to the collaboration of the Rubenshuis in Antwerp and the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia (MUVE) which offered the marvelous Doge’s private Apartment for the display of around 80 paintings, engravings, drawings and pieces of Venetian and Antwerp glass and instruments, loaned by the Antwerp City Museums, the KMSKA, MUVE, and the museums of Ghent, Bruges, Leuven and the MNHA Luxembourg.

Furthermore, Rubens’s relevant canvases and oil sketches will be shown, together with the Lamentation over the Dead Christ by Van Dick.
For the first time three iconic examples of Venetian paintings will return to their hometown.

The first one, Tintoretto’s The angel foretelling Saint Catherine of Alexandria of her Martyrdom was purchased by David Bowie in the late 1980s from the Colnaghi Gallery in London.

Originally the canvas was part of Rubens’s private collection, due to his immense admiration for the Venetian master, and Bowie was fascinated as well by the beautiful handling of colors and the expressiveness of his style.
In November 2016 a significant part of Bowie’s collection was auctioned, and Tintoretto’s painting was sold for a record-breaking sum to a private dealer who immediately announced that the artwork would be loaned long term to the Rubens House, a museum that Bowie loved so much. 

The second one, Jacopo Pesaro presenting Saint Peter to Pope Alexander VI was commissioned by the Bishop Jacopo Pesaro between 1503-1507 as an expression of thankfulness for the victory of Santa Maura, when Pesaro was appointed papal legate to command a detachment of warships against the Turks in August 1502.

It is generally considered a Titian’s early painting still affected by Giovanni Bellini who sketched St.Peter’s head and the other two characters. Scholars assume that initially Bellini himself was commissioned the canvas when the young Titian was working in his atelier as a totally unknown apprentice.

Due to the Bellini’s age and other circumstances, Titian completed the painting that is generally ascribed to the master hand, and includes typical features of his style fully developed in the following years. 
On the right side of the canvas Rodrigo Borgia stands in the background, wearing a shimmering green brocade cloak, set against a sunny lagoon landscape with galleys and sail boats.

While he is staring at St. Peter, the Pope introduces to him Jacopo Pesaro, who is kneeling before the saint in a devotional attitude, holding a flag that displays the coat of arms of both his family’s and the Pontiff’s one. 
Bishop Pesaro benefited eternally from this canvas, aimed at immortalizing himself and the Pope, who are depicted as the heroes of Christianity against the “eternal enemy”. 

Rubens and Van Dyck were greatly affected by Titian who was commissioned to paint portraits of noblemen and the upper class merchants.

The vividness, the realism and the psychological insight of his style, made him a true celebrity throughout Europe. Moreover, Belgians are very proud of this canvas which is the only one in the country by the master hand!

The third painting, Mistress Mila and their daughter Emilia is one of the many Titian’s incomplete paintings left in the master’s workshop after his death on August 31st 1576.

In those days religious subjects were more saleable than the unfinished portraits, so the two characters were converted into Tobias and the Archangel Raphael so the mother played the part of the angel and her daughter the one of Tobias.

Wings, a new dress, a male hairstyle, a vase, and a big fish were just added to Titian’s canvas, which was definitely superior in quality to the new one, in fact details were summarily sketched and painted with mat colors. 

In 1948 X-ray test revealed the original subject of a double portrait, later examined in detail by the English conservator Alex Cobbe who suggested to bring back to light the previous painting and totally remove the above composition. It took almost twenty years’ restoration!

Despite the missing parts, it is possible to observe the technique used by Titian, focused on the heads of the two female figures, a very unusual subject in his long career.
In total female portraits are about thirteen and this double portrait is unique, especially in the case of related characters, due to an untold social rule that prevented dynastic iconography in Venice.

For this reason scholars assume that both women were not members of the Venetian aristocracy, but the masters’ maid “Milia” together with her ten years old daughter Emilia, very likely Titian’s one.
Depicted from a three-quarter view, this beauty is represented as a gentle and quiet spirit, while her red lips and the rosy cheeks disclose passion, sensuousness, and youth.

The protective gesture of her arm, the gilt-brown garment frame Emilia’s profile, so tense and made more vivid by her upward gaze.
In truth Titian’s private life is almost unknown, and little information is deduced from the notarial acts of his children, who were not entirely legitimate as it happened in those days.

Mistress Mila and their daughter Emilia is a fascinating and inspiring painting, full of fondness and gratitude, expressing the most intimate feelings of a father and a passionate lover.

Moreover, don’t miss the drawings, etchings and works of many other Flemish artists, among whom Anthony Van Dyck, Peter Paul Rubens, Jacques Jordaens, Cornelis de Vos, Maerten de Vos, Servatius Cardon, and the impressive still life paintings by Osias Beert, Clara Peeters, Frans Snijders, Jan Daviddsz de Heem, and Abraham van Beijeren.
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