Titian at His Best

Since everyone was so hard on Titian I thought I ought to come to his defense by posting one of the most impressive paintings in the Prado Museum.


The Emperor Charles V at the Battle of Mühlberg (332 × 279 cm), in the Museo del Prado, Madrid–by who else but Titian? (photo released into the public domain by The Yorck Project, published here)

The horse is so black its eyes are hidden here, though you can see them on the original painting, which is as big as the wall. He gallops like no other painted horse gallops and those little knots of velvet on his saddle-blanket bob and spin with the movement. This is a portrait fit for an emperor. Vasari can draw until he’s blue in the face and he will never paint anything like this.

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This entry was posted in art, art history, equestrian statues, great artists, oil painting, Renaissance, Spain, Titian, Vasari. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Titian at His Best

  1. erikatakacs says:

    I personally liked his nude and I like this one too. Maybe you should post some of Vasari’s work for comparison. I’ve never seen any of his paintings.

  2. wrjones says:

    Paintings and drawings of horses that are anywhere near correct always impress me. I find them very difficult.

  3. iondanu says:

    Vasari, as fara as I know, was a mediocre painter. He compensate with his Lifes…

    Something really bizarre with the horse drawings…I get tens of hits comming from people who searched horses, horses drawing, drawing of horses… Must be you, Bill?

  4. wrjones says:

    It’s not me but it should be. I even took a week long workshop on drawing horses but I find it a struggle and absolutely can’t do it without a reference.

  5. kimiam says:

    This is gorgeous. There is always something that could be improved if you study almost any work long enough. I think it is the overall effect of the piece, the overall lines, movement of the eye within it that are most important and color is fabulous.

    And jones, I think that is always the case, isn’t it? I mean, people who can just draw a horse from memory either have a photographic memory (runs in my husband’s family and yes, his drawings look like photographs, some of his family can look at a page of huge numbers and memorize them almost instantly) or have spent so many hours attentively studying the horse and every curve and line, appreciating it that they just know and maybe to the rest of us it seems to come from nowhere, but for them, it has been on their mind and is a passionate thing for them. Some spend their time studying with pencil in hand, which is an awesome way! And eventually you will be able to just draw a horse from “nowhere” if it’s on your mind.

  6. sugarbat says:

    This horse isn’t galloping — and probably isn’t even moving forward at all. The first clue is the horse’s head, which is tucked in a way that would be awkward and impractical (for the horse) if he were moving forward — even at a walk. Second clue is the horse’s body combined with the position of his legs. If he were galloping, his body would be stretched out quite a bit more as he pushed with his hind legs and reached with his forelegs. See http://www.funnysnaps.com/igait.html for animated examples of several different horse-gaits. There is potentially a moment during the gallop when the hind legs would both be touching the ground while the forelegs would be above it, but the whole position of the horse and his head suggests that the horse is, instead, standing still and rearing and prancing — that is, bouncing up on his hind legs and bobbing his head (think of a person nodding his head in an exaggerated manner). The picture catches the head-bob at its lower point.

    The other clues, of course, involve the rider. First, he’s sitting straight up, with his torso at a 90-degree angle to the horse’s back, which you’d not be doing if you were riding a galloping horse; you’d be bent over, with your elbows tucked in at your sides, your hands holding the reins firmly (ideally, both hands, although it’s certainly possible for an experienced rider/soldier to sit a galloping horse one-handed). Your knees would be bent, too — which leads me to talk about the rider’s legs and feet, not to mention the stirrups. The stirrups, themselves, are adjusted far too low down for this rider, if he wished to actually sit on a moving horse. The stirrups should be high enough for the rider’s knees to be quite bent — this is for the stability of the rider. His feet in the stirrups are not positioned at all correctly, either — he’s got them too far back on the soles of his shoes — almost under his heels, which is sort of nuts — and his feet are not angled properly. If this picture caught a mid-gallop moment, then the stirrups would be much closer to the balls of the rider’s feet; his heels would be angled toward the ground and his toes toward the sky. This is in case the horse stops suddenly — again, a stability measure.

    You *are* right when you say this horse gallops like no other painted horse gallops, and I’d add that it gallops like no other horse gallops, period. But if Madonna saw him, she might say it does a pretty good vogue. :)

    • 100swallows says:

      Thank you, Sugarbat. Your knowledge and observation of horses and riding is impressive, and you describe very well. It was fun to read why that horse (is it a horse even?) isn’t galloping or Charles isn’t actually riding but floating or something (maybe held up with strings like a marionette?).
      I suppose one who is so offended by these errors can’t like the picture much. You didn’t say if you did. Why do you think so many horse lovers through the years have praised it? They must have gotten the feeling of a prancing horse and a sense of the dignity of the king, perhaps covering the howlers with their hand while they admired the beauty of that animal, the dawn or dusk behind it, the wonderful horse trappings, and so on.

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