Pope Paul III Titian Buy Art Prints Now
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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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Titian chose to depict the Pope without his cap in order to portray a man of humility and love for others with this portrait completed in the early summer of 1543

Interestingly, Titian's later portraits of the same man would include the cap, perhaps a sign that his royal holiness was feeling established in his position and seeking to continue the past traditions. Perhaps even it was a sign of his starting to distance himself from his citizens having earlier felt a stronger connection, partiularly to the poorer elements of society.

The Pope holds a purse in his right hand here and there has been much discussion over its relevance. Some claim it to represent generosity, a willingness to hand out coins and wealth to others, whilst some see it as a pure display of wealth and opulence. The artist's relationship with the Pope was not always a comfortable one and he was not considered as keen on him as a donor as he was with some of his other high status connections.

The attire worn by the Pope in this portrait backs up the claim that it was produced around April-time. The fur lined sleeves could have still been used at this time of year, following on from similar attire across winter time. As an elderly man, his subject would have worn considerable layers outside of the hot summer months.

Titian would have carefully managed the entire scene for this work, both as a perfectionist but also recognising the importance of this painting within his overall career. There would have been great attention shown to the ripples of the Pope's clothing, making sure that the correct impressionist was given about the subject's shape and size and general health at that time.

This painting can be found at the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte in Naples alongside works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Masaccio, Giovanni Bellini, Sandro Botticelli, Giorgio Vasari, El Greco and many more besides. Specific points of interest would include Madonna and Child and Two Angels by Botticelli, Crucifixion by Masaccio, Portrait of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese by Raphael, The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Flagellation by Caravaggio and Transfiguration by Giovanni Bellini.