Caricature of the Laocoon Group Titian Buy Art Prints Now
from Amazon

* As an Amazon Associate, and partner with Google Adsense and Ezoic, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

Titian enters the world of parody with this depiction of an ancient sculpture, but with the figures changed for his own aumsement

This is a woodcut completed from an original Titian drawing which was possibly completed by Niccolo Boldrini. This is a parody, choosing to depict monkeys instead of humans. The woodcut itself is now owned by the Albertina Musem in Vienna as part of one of the finest collections of original art from this period, anywhere in the world.

There is not much documentation around either the woodcut or Titian's original drawing but this scene was discussed by HW Janson in an article for The Art Bulletin, Vol. 28. His piece was titled Titian's Laoccon Caricature and the Vesalian-Galenist Controversy and is well worth a browse, with free availablility online.

The original Laoccon and his Sons was a marble sculpture discovered in Rome in 1506 and that now resides in the Vatican Museum. Laoccon is a Trojan priest and he and his sons, Antiphantes and Thymbraeus are attacked by sea serpents. That work is believed to date back to ancient times. See also Laocoon by El Greco.

Discussions were held as to quite why Titian chose to depict this scene. Some argue that it was an attempt to free his inventive mind from the influence of this sculpture for all future works whilst others suggest it was a response to a substandard work by an Italian sculptor of around that time.