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Titian, sex and gods: the passions of the Prado Museum

The gallery brings together for the first time in 400 years the six great canvases that Philip II commissioned from the Venetian master, a display of fantasy and eroticism considered the most important set of mythological paintings in the West

Leaving aside the fate of mortals, Titian undertook a supernatural adventure: entering into mythological passions from his readings of Ovid’s Metamorphosis and displaying an extraordinary desire in six large canvases. Once the density of that other world was assimilated, he was used to shape the most important pictorial group dedicated to mythology in Western painting.

Titian spent nine years on that journey. A commission from Felipe II for which he had unlimited freedom. The first pieces were sent to Spain in 1553, Venus, Adonis and Dánae, one of the three couples in which he divided this monumental work that led to a new starting point in Renaissance art. The Venetian master conceived this work as a whole to be contemplated in the same room, challenging whoever approached. But before the end of the reign of Felipe II, the pictures began to disperse. And so until the 19th century, when Ferdinand VII gave the Duke of Wellington a batch of paintings – with one of the Poems inside – for his support in defeating the French troops.

project fulfilled the Poems

Titian called this project fulfilled the Poems. Well, poetry was then a liberal art that adjusted very well to the delight of the senses that the artist sought. And so they have gone down in history.

These pieces had not been reunited for more than 400 years, but their strength – even fragmented – infected some of the most powerful painters of successive centuries. Adding one reality and the other, the Prado Museum proposes an exhibition of monumental power, Mythological Passions, open until next July 4 and of which Miguel Falomir (director of the art gallery) and Alejandro Vergara (curator of Flemish painting are curators and northern schools). The exhibition has a precedent in the National Gallery in London, where the blow of the pandemic only allowed us to visit it for a week during that March when everything was blown up (2020).

The Madrid art gallery brings together the six Poems and throws ends for dialogue with main works by creators such as Veronese, Allori, Rubens, Ribera, Poussin, Van Dyck and Velázquez. All around the myths and mythological narratives that Titian unleashed.

“This is the dream of any art historian,” Vergara said. “These mythological works allow us to travel to a very distant place and, at the same time, allow us to realize that we have the same problems as men and women of centuries past, even remote. For example, the pain caused by loss or loss. joy of love. These are questions that we do not understand or have control over and that the ancients turned into a story that, with its many variations, are the object of poetic reinterpretation throughout the centuries “

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