Tiziano Vecellio, aka Titian, is widely known as the greatest artist of the 16th century. His first major commissioned work, titled, "The Flight Into Egypt" was made when the artist was just a teenager. The early masterpiece depicts the remarkable skill and ambition of an artist who would blossom into one of the best colorists of all time. The rare work is currently on view at the National Gallery in London -- its first time leaving Russia since Catherine the Great purchased the piece in 1768.

titianflight Titian The Flight into Egypt about 15067 Oil on canvas 206 x 336 cm Credit Line: The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg Photograph © The State Hermitage Museum / Natalia Antonova, Inessa Regentova


The piece shows an early example of Titian's signature pastoral, combining a naive sense of natural beauty with a whiff of mysticism. His evocative use of color and create intense atmospheres which are both exquisitely picturesque and slightly ominous. The artwork was lent by St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum after years of restoration. The work will be exhibited alongside 20 of Titian's contemporaries from 16th century Venice including his first master Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione and Albrecht Durer, who was in Venice when Titian began working on "The Flight."

Titian was born in 1488 in a small town on the Venetian side of the Alps. His artistic career was uniquely diverse in both subject matter and clientele; he appealed to an international audience through his paintings of landscapes, portraits and profane subjects. Widely hailed as the greatest painter of his era, Titian's style was described by Dolci as moving "in step with nature, so that every one of his figures has life, movement and flesh which palpitates." In the BBC video below he is described more modernly as the Fred Astaire of painting. "The Flight Into Egypt" was patroned by Andrea Loredon for the portico of Loredan's palace on the Grand Canal. Today this is the site of the Venice Casino.

titiandeer Titian The Flight into Egypt (detail) about 15067 Oil on canvas 206 x 336 cm Credit Line: The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg Photograph © The State Hermitage Museum / Natalia Antonova, Inessa Regentova
titian1 Titian Noli me Tangere about 1511-12 Oil on canvas 110.5 x 91.9 cm Credit Line: The National Gallery, London. Bequeathed by Samuel Rogers, 1856 © The National Gallery, London


"Titian's First Masterpiece" is on view at The National Gallery in London until August 19, 2012.

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