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Titian's Painting Technique to c.1540

Jill Dunkerton and Marika Spring, with contributions from Rachel Billinge, Kamilla Kalinina, Rachel Morrison, Gabriella Macaro, David Peggie and Ashok Roy
Technical Bulletin Volume 34, 2013


Volume 34 of the National Gallery Technical Bulletin is dedicated to the evolution of Titian’s technique in the first part of his career, up to around 1540. This introductory essay brings together the observations made on the paintings examined – described in detail in the catalogue entries – in order to survey various aspects of Titian’s painting technique. It discusses the origins of his approach in the workshops of Venice and the Veneto and its relationship with the methods of his predecessors, Giovanni Bellini and Cima, and his contemporaries, Giorgione and Sebastiano. The canvases and their preparation are described, showing the evolution in his choice of imprimitura. Titian was traditionally believed to have worked directly with paint, without first drawing his composition on the support, but infrared reflectography has dispelled this myth. However, Titian did not necessarily follow the drawing when executing his paintings, which show many pentimenti, evident in X-ray and infrared images, and in overlapping colours seen in cross-sections. Titian fully exploited the wide range of pigments available to him, including the much-prized ultramarine, azurite and red lake from kermes.


Titian, Bellini, Cima, Giorgione, Sebastiano, Venice, painting technique, canvas, pigments, underdrawing, X-radiograph, pentimenti, imprimitura, zinc sulphate, ultramarine, vermilion, red lake, kermes, madder, cochineal, azurite, lead-tin yellow, verdigris, yellow earth, orpiment, realgar, walnut oil, linseed oil

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Dunkerton, J. and Spring, M., with contributions from Billinge, R., Kalinina, K., Morrison, R., Macaro, G., Peggie, D. and Roy, A., ‘Titian’s Painting Technique to c.1540’, National Gallery Technical Bulletin Vol. 34, 2013, pp. 4–31.

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