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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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Saint Mark Enthroned is one of the earlier paintings by Titian, known for his Italian Renaissance style. Titian was known for painting a variety of different subjects: portraits, landscapes and, in this case, religion.

Titian's use of colour became a significant influence not only for contemporary Italian artists but for those who would come after him in the the sphere of Western art. As well as a master of colour, Titian was known for his loose brushstrokes. Saint Mark Enthroned was created roughly between 1510 and 1511 and was commissioned for Santa Maria della Salute, often referred to as Salute, a church within Venice where the painting can still be found. Venice is an incredibly important city when it comes to the Renaissance, only helping Titian further to progress as an artist.

Translating to 'Saint Mary of Health', Salute was one of the 'plague churches', built to save people from an outbreak of pestilence. Saint Mark Enthroned was commissioned for this church for this reason (an ex-voto).An ex-voto is an offering to a saint, placed in a church where followers can come and give their thanks for protection and health.

On the right of the painting is Saint Roch (or Rocco), a saint who is associated with protecting worshippers against the plague. Next to Saint Roch is Saint Sebastian, a saint and martyr. Unlike Saint Rock, Saint Sebastian is not strongly associated with the plague. He has come into contact with Irene of Rome who healed him after he was brutally persecuted by the Romans. In general he is associated with male athletes.

On the left are Saints Cosmas and Damian who are of Arabian descent, known for being doctors, twin brothers and martyrs for the Christian faith. Healing people in return for no money, they became known as 'the silverless', the 'unmercenaries' or Anargyroi. The patron saint, Saint Mark, is sat upon a tall throne in the centre of this painting between the saints who protect against plague and pestilence.

This early painting for Titian, like much of his early work, shows the influence of Giorgione. Giorgione was an Italian painter associated with the Venetian School. Himself and Titian founded the Venetian School of Italian Renaissance painting. Italian Renaissance painters usually toured across Italy but specific styles varied. Florentine painting was very different compared to that of the Venetian School, most notably due to the colour used by painters such as Titian and Giorgione. Some of Giorgione's most famous paintings included The Tempest, Sleeping Venus, The Three Philosophers and Castelfranco Madonna.