The High Museum of Art, in collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS), will present an exhibition of 25 masterpieces of the Venetian Renaissance—12 paintings and 13 drawings—that will include two of the greatest paintings of the Italian Renaissance, Titian’s “Diana and Actaeon” and “Diana and Callisto” (1556–1559). The two monumental paintings have never before traveled to the United States. The exhibition will also include paintings by Tintoretto, Veronese and Lotto from the collection of the National Galleries. The High’s presentation of “Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland” launches a new collaboration between the High and NGS, with additional exhibitions currently under development.
“Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland,” co-organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will premiere at the High, where it will be on view from October 16, 2010, through January 2, 2011. It will then travel to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (February 5–May 1, 2011) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (May 21–August 14, 2011).
In addition to Titian’s “Diana” paintings, “Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting” will include 10 other paintings that illuminate the depth of the National Galleries of Scotland’s collection of Venetian Renaissance works. The paintings—among them Titian’s “Virgin and Child with St. John the Baptist and an Unidentified Male Saint” and “Venus Rising from the Sea,” Lorenzo Lotto’s “Virgin and Child with Saints Jerome, Peter, Francis and an Unidentified Female Saint,” Jacopo Tintoretto’s “Christ Carried to the Tomb” and Jacopo Bassano’s “Adoration of the Magi”—will be accompanied by 13 drawings by Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and other Venetian Renaissance artists.
Originally commissioned by King Phillip II of Spain as part of a series of six paintings, Titian’s “Diana” paintings were acquired by the Duke of Orleans in the 18th century. The “Diana” paintings then entered the private Bridgewater Collection following the French Revolution and passed by descent to the 5th Earl of Ellesmere, who became the 6th Duke of Sutherland and placed the pair on long-term loan to the National Galleries of Scotland in 1945. In 2008 the National Galleries of Scotland, together with the National Gallery of London, were given the opportunity to acquire these works so that they may remain in a public collection in the United Kingdom. In less than five months, the National Galleries of Scotland and London secured the funds to acquire “Diana and Actaeon” for the nation. The painting will be shared by the two institutions. Currently the two institutions are in the midst of a campaign to acquire “Diana and Callisto,” to ensure that both of Titian’s “Diana” paintings remain in public collections in the U.K.
“For centuries, these paintings have mesmerized the public and influenced generations of artists. In the 65 years that the Titians have been on public display in Edinburgh, people have made pilgrimages to Scotland to see them and other works in the National Galleries’ exquisite Venetian collection. Now, the people of Atlanta and the southeast region as well as other parts of the U.S. can see these great works from the height of the Venetian Renaissance,” said Michael E. Shapiro, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. Director of the High Museum of Art. “With this exhibition, we hope to help raise awareness of how vital it is to keep masterpieces like these accessible to the public. It also continues our program of bringing great works of art from around the world to Atlanta and then to other cities across the U.S.”
“Diana and Actaeon” and “Diana and Callisto”
Titian painted both “Diana and Actaeon” and “Diana and Callisto” for King Philip II of Spain between 1556 and 1559, at the height of his career. Part of a series of six large mythological pictures made for the king, the “Diana” paintings accompanied the “Danaë” and “Venus and Adonis” (both at The Prado, Madrid), the “Perseus and Andromeda” (Wallace Collection, London) and the “Rape of Europa” (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston). The “Diana” paintings, completed when Titian was well into his sixties, are the penultimate works in the series of scenes from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” and represent the Venetian master’s accumulated skill and experience. Designed as a pair—a stream flows from one to the other—one painting tells the story of the goddess Diana as she learns that her handmaiden Callisto is pregnant by Jupiter, while the other depicts the moment Diana and her nymphs are caught bathing by the hunter Actaeon. The “Diana” paintings are richer in chromatic range and compositional complexity than their predecessors.
“These two paintings have long been recognized as among Titian’s very finest creations and as supreme masterpieces of Venetian Renaissance art,” commented John Leighton, Director of the National Galleries of Scotland. “Their ambitious scale, the masterful unity of color and subject matter, the art-historical significance and their excellent condition all contribute to the fame and reputation of these works.”