NGV National Gallery of Victoria

Titian and the Venetian Empire

Italian 1485/90–1576
Philip II (Filippo II) 1551
oil on canvas
193.0 x 111.0 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid (P00411)
Spanish Royal Collection
© Museo del Prado 2009
Titian, the great Venetian master, was the first Italian artist whose works were collected by the Habsburg rulers of Spain, who reigned from 1516 to 1700. The King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (150058) first sat for Titian in the Italian city of Mantua in 1533, thus initiating one of the more fruitful relationships between royal patrons and a single artist in history.

Charles V’s son, the future King Philip II (152798), became Titian’s most important patron after the late 1540s. Following fifteen years of near-exclusive service to the Spanish sovereign, the artist wrote to the King in 1562 to express his desire to continue working for him until his death, which he did.

Philip II also admired other Venetian masters, including Jacopo Bassano, Paolo Veronese and Jacopo Tintoretto and collected their work. Much of the appeal of sixteenth-century Venetian art lies in its sensuality combined with a level of bravado in composition and painting technique.