Titian’s Altarpieces: Color, Innovation, and Invention

Titian, Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro, 1519-26, Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice  Photograph: Katherine Arens


Titian was a master of paint and color; his influence on Western art is enormous and far reaching. Through careful examination of Titian’s altarpiece paintings, Assumption and Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro, it is possible to glimpse not only the unusual, yet inherently Venetian, way Titian approached painting, but also the decisions that led to the final artworks and to his unique contributions to Renaissance painting. This paper will briefly outline the history of altarpieces in Venice, the progression of naturalism in those paintings, some of the people and events influencing Titian, and finally it will examine the innovative ways in which Titian approached these masterpieces. With the Assumption, created for the high altar in the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Titian is credited, by Marino Sanuto, a Venetian historian, diarist and contemporary of Titian, with establishing the High Renaissance in Venice. [1] The secular references in the Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro are without precedent in altarpieces of the period and serve to make this altarpiece a combination of sacra conversazione, votive painting, and funerary painting. Many of the elements destined to become hallmarks of this master of Renaissance painting are exemplified in these two exceptional altarpieces.

[1]David Rosand, Painting in Sixteenth-Century Venice: Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto, rev. ed. (New Haven: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 35.

Brief History of Religious Painting in Renaissance Venice

Titian:  Assumption of the Virgin

Titian:  Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro

Titian:  Altarpieces Bibliography

Katherines Blog

The Katherine’s Blog link will take you to the research paper, Titian’s Altarpieces: Color, Innovation, and Invention. From there it is possible to see the other blog pages; not all relate to Venice Seminar.


Dear Katherine

I am a beginner in art history but am obliged to write in my course on the Titian Altarpieces. I would therefore be obliged if you could indicate how I could obtain a copy of this research paper?

I wold be most grateful to you.



Dear William,
The material you are reading is available here online and should be cited according to scholarly practice if you use it in your work. In addition, Titian is a much researched artist and there is a great deal of material available on him. You may want to check “The Dictionary of Art,” edited by Jane Turner (30+ volumes); this is an excellent reference.
Good luck with your research.
Marjorie Och, PhD
University of Mary Washington
Department of Art and Art History

Dear Marjorie

I am at a bit of a loss: I am computer illiterate so that when you say the article ‘is available here online’ I do not still know how or where to access it??

Could you help and thank you so much.


I am half way through a Diploma in the History Art at Oxford University. My essay topic is ‘To what extent can Titians’s achievements in painting be understood from a study of his altarpieces alone’.

Your article would be invaluable for my research.Please could you let me know how to access this research article on Titian’s altarpieces on line. I would of course acknowledge this and happy to contribute financially if appropriate. Thank you Pamela

Dear Ms. Elder,

This online exhibit is an undergraduate research project completed by students in my Venice seminar.

This blog represents the students’ contributions to the online exhibit. You should be able to find the entirety of this particular paper here by clicking on the links below the bibliography.

Please keep in mind that it is an undergraduate project (see the “Welcome” and “About Us” tabs). Please cite the work with the title of the exhibit, our names, and the URL. Thank you.

Good luck with your research.

Marjorie Och, Ph.D.
Professor of Art History
University of Mary Washington
Fredericksburg, VA 22401

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