TITIAN
A monk with a book (c. 1550)

When the NGV’s Felton Bequest adviser Frank Rinder recommended the purchase of this sombre yet arresting painting, he warned the Gallery’s trustees that: ‘It would cause considerable disappointment were there to be any expectation of that sumptuous colour which, to the general public, the name of the Venetian master [Titian] exclusively connotes. Such later portraits by Titian are ranked by many connoisseurs as his supreme achievements, and in them rich colour is eschewed’. True to Rinder’s predictions, the opinion of Melbourne’s art critics was divided between those who found A monk with a book ‘drab and unconvincing’ and others who felt that it ‘is not a typical Titian, but it is a pleasant picture to look at, discreet and sober’. The authenticity of this work was first doubted in 1971, and questioned again in the 1980s, but in recent years it has been reaccepted into the canon of genuine works by the great Venetian painter.