TOTUS TUUS: ‘The Assumption of the Virgin’ by Titian (1516 – 1518)

 Tiziano Vecelli (anglicized as Titian) is one of the greatest painters of the Venetian school of High Renaissance art. Born in the Republic of Venice in 1488-90, his vivid application of colour had a profound influence on the artistic world. His imaginative temperament earned him the title of a poet-painter. The fluidity in his painting, the increasing freedom of brushstroke and his deft ability to grasp personality can be well noted in today’s masterpiece – The Assumption of the Virgin.

The painting, a bright star among the many dazzles, can be found in the Church of Santa Maria dei Frari in Venice. As you walk down the nave of the Church and step across the choir screen your gaze is directed to this giant, massive, twenty three feet tall painting that serves as the central altar piece of the Franciscan Church. At first glance its scale, the richness of its colour, its complexity and its theological beauty enamours the viewer. The burst of its golden hues absorbs the haze of light that spills through the lancet windows that surround it. At once, the Assumption of the Virgin springs forth to life as the viewer is transported to the divine hour of mystery and glory. 

As we begin this sacred journey, we first encounter a horizontal mass of awe-struck apostles who physically share our terrestrial space. However, spiritually their souls rise above their mortal beings as they stare in wonder and awe at the spectacular vision before them. We are drawn to their efficacy as the earthbound figures with their hands raised attempt to rise against the force of gravity, homebound to heaven. In a dramatic swirl the apostle in red, with his back towards us directs our gaze to the next intermediary layer.

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