Titian was the greatest painter of Venice and maybe the greatest of the whole Renaissance.
Titian ((1490–1576) by himself, in the Prado Museum, Madrid (a Wikimedia Commons photo released by The Yorck Project)
He and Michelangelo met once. Giorgio Vasari arranged the meeting.
Titian showed them his latest picture—a nude Danaë—and “naturally, as one would do with the artist present, we praised it,” says Vasari.
Those old-timers could be pretty eloquent. Michelangelo probably told Titian the Danaë was a magnificent painting and Titian scoffed and said he was much too kind, it was a mere trifle. Then Michelangelo, getting inspired, maybe called him the greatest painter in Italy and Titian replied that he was just a poor apprentice who tried his best but produced clumsy results; not like Michelangelo, who was a real painter. Whereupon Michelangelo in his best confession style would have retorted that he was no painter, just a bungling sculptor, God pity him–and so on.
The three said goodbye, no doubt with brotherly embraces and promises to repeat the honor and the enjoyment.
Then afterwards, on the way back to the hotel, Michelangelo and Vasari, with their masks off, shook their sour faces and said it was a pity Titian didn’t know how to paint. Or rather, didn’t know how to draw.
“I like the man’s style and his coloring,” Michelangelo told Vasari, “but it is a great pity that in Venice they don’t learn to draw well from the beginning and pursue their studies with more method. I tell you, if Titian had been helped by art and design as much as he was by nature—for the man has exceptional talent—no one would have been able to beat him, because he has a fine spirit and a captivating style. Really.”
And Vasari agreed. “If an artist has not drawn a great deal and studied carefully selected ancient and modern works, he can’t work from memory or enhance what he copies from life, and so give his work the grace and perfection of art which are beyond the reach of nature, some of whose aspects tend to be less than beautiful.”
Were they reworking their old prejudices about Venetian artists or did they really see faults ascribable to bad drawing in the Danaë? Here she is:
Danaë (128 × 178 cm) by Titian, now in the Prado Museum, Madrid (a Wikimedia Commons photo released by The Yorck Project)