By Stefano Zuffi

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1488–1576, ‘The Rape of Europa’, (c. 1560–2). (© Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA, USA/Bridgeman Images) Titian, ‘Danae Receiving the Shower of Gold’, (1553), Prado, Madrid, Spain. (Bridgeman Images) Plate 2Diego Velázquez, 1599–1660, ‘The Spinners or The Fable of Arachne’, (c. 1655–60), Prado, Madrid, Spain. (Giraudon/Bridgeman Images) Plate 3Titian, ‘Portrait of King Philip II’, (1551), Prado, Madrid, Spain. , ‘Portrait of Louis-Philippe-Joseph d’Orléans, Duke of Chartres, later Duke of Orléans’, (1779), Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.

And this technique, carried out in this way, is full of good judgment, beautiful and stupendous, because it makes the pictures not only seem alive but to have been executed with great skill concealing the labour. The Rape of Europa is a magnificent example of Titian’s late technique. Throughout his career he had experimented with the possibilities of slow-drying and semi-translucent oil paint. He also added numerous glazes which give his paintings an extraordinary transparency and luminosity, and enabled him to achieve an infinite variety of hues and gradations of tone.

The Florentine lavished praise on Titian’s style, saying that it … pleased him very much but that it was a shame that in Venice they did not learn to draw well from the beginning and that those painters did not pursue their studies with more method. For the truth was, that if Titian had been assisted by art and design as much as he was by nature, and especially in reproducing living subjects, then no one could achieve more or work better, for he had a fine spirit and a lively and entrancing style.

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Caravaggio by Stefano Zuffi
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