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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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Violante represents one of the earlier paintings attributed to Titian, the celebrated Venetian artist. The artwork is now stored in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and is thought to date from around 1515.

The history of the painting is slightly unclear and the subject title, Violante, is thought to refer to the daughter of another painter Palma the Elder. For a number of years the painting was attributed to Palma the Elder until this was theory was found to lack evidence and was considered to be a work of Titian. Before the painting came into the possession of the Kunsthistorisches Museum it formed part of a collection owned by Bartolomeo della Nave and was later brought to England after being purchased by the Duke of Hamilton. It was finally acquired by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria which is how it became part of the museum collection.

Born around 1490, Titian's early techniques were initiated by his apprenticeship to another painter, Giovanni Bellini, who was known as the father of 'The Venetian Painters.' This school of artists developed their own distinctive style, separate from the Renaissance artists of Florence who were also prevalent at this time. The different style of the Venetian painters has been characterised as one that is fused with colour which is seen as integral to the design and shape of the subject matter, whereas Florentine painters saw colour as an added quality.

Colour pigments were crucial to Venetian artists such as Titian and were meant to infuse life into a painting, and this love of colour is said to be one reason that Venetians enthusiastically embraced oil paints. In Violante, this love of colour and the fusion with design and shape are apparent in the stunning colours of the girl's dress and the warm shades that play over her face and hair.

As well as being influenced by Bellini and the different direction that the Venetian Painters took in comparison to their Florentine contemporaries, Titian was also under the tutelage of another artist who was a colleague of Bellini - namely Giorgione. Giorgione is considered as the founder of Renaissance painting in Venice and he also added to Titian's early, brighter and more luminous artworks including Violante. However, by the time that Titian became an assistant to Giorgione he was already beginning to be recognised for some of his impressive frescoes and other pieces of art. Due to the similar styles and possible rivalry of the two men, some works created during their time together have had attributions changed from Giorgione to Titian after later investigation in the 20th century.

By the time he painted Violante, Titian had already produced a number of paintings and frescoes and had become a superintendent of government works charged with completing unfinished works of art by masters such as Bellini. The period of the painting of the young woman marks era when he is considered to have truly started to develop his own style and gain more maturity, gradually becoming the unrivalled master of the Venetian School of Painters until his death in 1576.