Trailing the provenance of Titian’s greatest work, Fine Art Travel tour leader FitzRoy (The Sultan's Istanbul on 5 Kurush a Day, 2013, etc.) includes short histories of Europe’s great powers and lessons in art and art history.
This is a chronicle of how politics, economics, and religion affect which art endures and which doesn’t. The Rape of Europa survived from its birth in the early 1560s through just a few owners to the present. Philip II of Spain appointed Titian as court artist in absentia (so he could remain in Venice) and commissioned a series of paintings based on the writings of Ovid. The artist transformed the myths into sensual masterpieces, and Rape was the last of the series. The painting’s eroticism was punishable under the Inquisition, so Philip and his heirs kept the art in their private quarters. The methods and technique Titian used in executing this work included his use of translucent glazes, layering, and impasto in the areas of light color. His great ability as a colorist, his complex techniques, and his inventive composition ensured his fame and the survival of his works throughout history. FitzRoy exhaustively traces the ownership of the works of Titian and other Renaissance artists through 500 years of European upheaval. The ebb of Spain’s glory, the French Revolution, the rise of Napoleon, the Industrial Revolution in England, and the rise of America’s robber barons all influenced the movement of great art, and Titian’s masterpiece in particular. Isabella Stewart Gardner purchased the painting in the late 1890s, and it remains to this day in her eponymous Boston museum. Throughout, the author tends to shift his focus from the movement of Titian’s paintings to general history, politics, biography, and architecture.
Some will prefer more about Titian’s work, as this book has too much extraneous information, but it should broaden readers’ knowledge of the many other worlds that surround the history of art.