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Past exhibition

Titian: Love, Desire, Death

16 March 2020 — 17 January 2021

Location: Level 2

Titian’s sensuous interpretation of Classical myths of love, temptation, and punishment

In 1551, Prince Philip of Spain, the future King Philip II, commissioned Titian, the most famous painter in Europe, to produce a group of paintings showing Classical myths primarily taken from the Roman poet Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’.

The exhibition reunites all six paintings in the series, from Boston, Madrid, and London, for the first time in over four centuries. Included are Diana and Actaeon’ and ‘Diana and Callisto’; works we own jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland.

Combining Titian’s remarkable talent as both artist and storyteller, the mythological scenes capture moments of high drama; a fatal encounter, the shameful discovery, a hasty abduction. Titian expertly manipulates paint and colour to dazzling effect; capturing luminous flesh, sumptuous fabrics, water, reflection, and atmospheric, almost enchanted, landscapes.

We see gods and goddesses, yet their faces show very human, and very relatable, emotions: guilt, surprise, shame, desperation, and regret.

Titian called these works his ‘poesie’ because he considered them to be visual equivalents of poetry. This is a rare opportunity to enjoy some of the greatest paintings in European art.

Exhibition organised by the National Gallery, the National Galleries of Scotland, the Museo Nacional del Prado, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. 

Titian, 'Rape of Europa' (detail), 1562 © Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

Exhibition supported by

Moretti Fine Art Ltd
The Vaseppi Trust

Andrew Bentley and Fiona Garland

The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

Katherine Stemberg and Bill Schnoor 
Sir David and Lady Verey

Il Circolo Charity – Italian Cultural Association

The Sunley exhibition programme is supported by the Bernard Sunley Foundation



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Find out more

Titian: Europe's most wanted

Everyone wanted paintings by Titian; we find out what made him so special

Titian's Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto

Beautiful but deadly; hear more about Titian's retelling of Ovid's poignant stories of Diana in paint

Mary Beard on Titian and Ovid

Who was Ovid and how did Titian interpret the Roman author's work?

Titian's technique

Watch artist Andy Pankhurst show us how Titian would have worked

Framing Titian

Enter a secret world of mechanical saws, chisels, and gold

Modern discoveries about Titian's poesie

A look 'beneath' Titian's canvases reveals the tweaks and changes he made as he worked over four hundred years ago
★★★★★ Evening Standard ★★★★★ The Guardian

★★★★★ The Times ★★★★★ Time Out

'Once-in-a-lifetime... staggering, outstanding, revelatory'
The Telegraph

'This is an event that can't be missed... quite breathtaking'
Evening Standard


Joint Member

Unlimited exhibition entry for two named individuals living at the same address.

Save £10 when you purchase an annual recurring Membership by Direct Debit.