Titian’s Images of Writing

This self-portrait of Titian as one of the apostles, writing instrument in hand, clearly suggests that the pen is but a substitute for the brush. And just as vision can mistake the act of writing for drawing so can language. An Italian dictionary published in 1612 records that the word stile means a painter's brush, a writer's pen and the personal style of the painter.1

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Captions for image(s) above:

Titian, St. Matthew (Santa Maria della Salute, Venice)

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Even in an engraving after a lost self-portrait we do not know whether Titian is writing on the tablet or drawing though, given the tablet's upright position, the scene strongly suggests the latter.

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Captions for image(s) above:

After Titian, Engraving of Titian's Self-Portrait Drawing

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Now in this more complex composition of Georges d'Armagnac with His Secretary we can imagine the secretary "drawing" his boss. That is why his figure seems more alive than that of his master who like the nude in Manet's Olympia looks flat. Immobile and seemingly unaware of his secretary's presence, Georges D'Armagnac is "a painting." No wonder, then, that both bearded men bear some resemblance to the bearded Titian.

Writing in truly poetic art is often a substitute for drawing. For, just as writers like Balzac and Wilde have used painters as an alter ego in their stories, so painters use writers in their art. The only difference is that while painters know what writers do, few writers understand painting.

Captions for image(s) above:

Titian, Georges d'Armagnac with His Secretary (1536-38)

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Notes:

1. Vocabolario degli Accademici della Crusca, Venice, Alberti 1612, p. 849 cited in Luba Freedman, Titian's Independent Self-Portraits (Milan: Olschki) 1990, p. 85

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 19 Nov 2010. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.