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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Pesaro Madonna waas completed by Titian and members of his studio in 1526, having taken seven years to put together

Jacopo Pesaro, who was the Bishop of Paphos, in Cyprus and also previously commander of the papal fleet would commission Titian to take on this enormous project. It was a prestigious work to decorate the chapel in the Frari Basilica in Venice that Pesaro's family had recently acquired. It was therefore not only a painting with grat sentimental value to Jacopo Pesaro, but also it's extensive size meant that only a famous name would be considered able to deliver this composition successfully.

Titian invokes plenty of symbolism within this composition, with the Virgin Mary sitting at the top of the stairs, confirming her as Madonna of the Stairs. Titian would choose his own wife to pose for this key figure. Pesaro is placed at the foot of the artwork, looking up in a devotional pose towards the Virign Mary.

This beautiful altarpiece can be found at the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice. The huge artwork is 4.88m tall by 2.69m wide. It is likely to have needed assistance from his studio due to the scale of the piece and also the other commitments that the artist was contracted to. Some believe, for instance, that the columns may not have been painted by Titian himself but whoever did complete them wanted to place a feeling of an overarching power looking down on the figures found in the centre of the composition.

The Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice holds many other significant artworks from the Renaissance but it is Titian's which are particularly appropriate, because of his strong connection to this city. You will find impressive work by Giovanni Bellini here, including his Madonna and Child with Ss. Nicholas of Bari, Peter, Mark and Benedict masterpiece. Titian's Assumption of the Virgin also takes a prominent position in this gallery. Work by Donatello, Girolamo Campagna, Paolo Veneziano and Antonio Rizzo can also be found here, with an impressive collection of sculpture.