Wednesday, March 13, 2013
A More Successful Use Of A Restricted Color Palette
Tiziano Vecellio (“Titian”) (1490-1576)
National Gallery Of Art, Washington
Oil On Canvas
35 5/16 Inches By 29 Inches
A more successful example of an artist intentionally adopting a very restricted color palette—three colors: rose, white and black—is Titian’s remarkable portrait of Ranuccio Farnese (1530-1565), painted when the sitter was twelve years old. No matter how long one studies the painting, one never believes for a moment that the color scheme is too limited, or that the restricted palette has been deliberately chosen as part of some misguided exercise in “expression”.
In person, the painting is overwhelming: bold yet subtle, brilliant yet restrained, striking yet thought-provoking. Not only is "Ranuccio Farnese" one of Titian’s greatest portraits, it is one of the artist’s greatest paintings in any genre.
The painting is famed for its psychological insight. Titian caught the youth of the boy as well as his adult-like qualities, unexpected in one so young (a precocious child, Ranuccio was to be named a Cardinal at age fifteen). Raised from birth to hold ecclesiastical office, the Farnese boy was handed his first major church assignment at the age of twelve. The occasion precipitated the creation of this great portrait, a commission by the Farnese family, awarded to the greatest artist of the day.