Titian

Tiziano Vecello, also known as Titian, was a late Renaissance Venetian painter who, unlike many painters, had a gift for portraits, landscapes, and history paintings alike. So how do you tell if it’s a Titian? Titian is a big topic. Today we’re only going to discuss his use of color – and really, just one color. After all, he invented one – Titian red! Titian red is a brownish-orange or golden red color that Titian used in women’s hair, as seen in the painting above, housed at the Met. The little square of color in the bottom left is a “swatch” of the color, if you’re deciding to paint your house Titian red (I don’t recommend it).

Madonna and Child (c. 1508). The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY).

Madonna and Child (c. 1508). The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY).

Seriously, post-Titian, this color is everywhere in paintings. Check out this painting by pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti:

Bocca Baciata (1859) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA). 

Bocca Baciata (1859) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA). 

For my money though, “Titian red” could just as easily apply to the distinctive color Titian often used for clothing and drapery – a much deeper red that appears to be a combination of a blood-red mineral-based pigment called realgar, lead white, and black, as seen in the painting of Charles V below (Titian was famous the world over within his own lifetime, first painting for Charles V, then Philip II). In fact, despite using a dizzying array of pigments over his long career, Titian was rumored to have said that a painter only needs three colors: white, black and red.For my money though, “Titian red” could just as easily apply to the distinctive color Titian often used for clothing and drapery – a much deeper red that appears to be a combination of a blood-red mineral-based pigment called realgar, lead white, and black, as seen in the painting of Charles V below (Titian was famous the world over within his own lifetime, first painting for Charles V, then Philip II). In fact, despite using a dizzying array of pigments over his long career, Titian was rumored to have said that a painter only needs three colors: white, black and red.Pre-Raphaelite painters loved using Titian hair – or even wilder reds – for their mystical femme fatales.

To give you an idea of Titian red’s enduring appeal, behold! It’s even found its way in a Barbie doll!

For my money though, “Titian red” could just as easily apply to the distinctive color Titian often used for clothing and drapery – a much deeper red that appears to be a combination of a blood-red mineral-based pigment called realgar, lead white, and black, as seen in the painting of Charles V below (Titian was famous the world over within his own lifetime, first painting for Charles V, then Philip II). In fact, despite using a dizzying array of pigments over his long career, Titian was rumored to have said that a painter only needs three colors: white, black and red.

Equestrian Portrait of Charles V (1548) by Titian. Museo del Prado (Madrid, Spain).

Equestrian Portrait of Charles V (1548) by Titian. Museo del Prado (Madrid, Spain).

Mined realgar.

Mined realgar.