Titian: Love Desire Death ★★★★★ The National Gallery | Until June 14, 2020


Known as the poesie, Titian's epic series of paintings has not been together since the sixteenth century. This ground-breaking exhibition brings them together and adds a seventh, The Death of Actaeon, which was conceived as part of the series but executed later and never delivered to Titian's patron, King Philip II of Spain. The works all treat stories from Ovid's Metamorphoses but the emphasis is on the female nude in a series of beguiling poses. They are testaments to Titian's skills as a painter and as a storyteller. Behind their obvious erotic component, however, there is often a darker point. The Renaissance was a period that celebrated rationality but Titian's works here focus on the irrational nature of desire and the often cruel and capricious reality the humans are faced with. Zeus, the king of the gods, follows his desires where they lead him regardless of consequences, whether that is the rape of Europa or the assault on Danaë. They have no say in their fates. Actaeon and Callisto are presented as the innocent victims punished for actions that were not of their own will. Venus is abandoned by Adonis after a night of passion and although Perseus is acting to save Andromeda he is not her intended husband. The amorality of power and the irrationality of desire are in the ascendant in these stunning works. This is an intelligently designed exhibition which beautifully draws out the power of Titian's works by bringing them together for the first time in over four hundred years!

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Danaë by Titian, c. 1551-1553. © Stratfield Saye Preservation Trust.

 Our Score:  ☆☆☆☆☆ 

WHEN, WHERE, GETTING THERE:
Until June 14, 2020
Sat - Thu: 10 am - 6 pm, Fri: 10 am - 10 pm
The National Gallery (Ground Floor Galleries)
Nearest tube: Charing Cross

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