The Muddied Mirror

Materiality and Figuration in Titian's Later Paintings

By (author) Jodi Cranston

Hardback - £61.95

Publication date:

19 February 2010

Length of book:

176 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271035291

Ideal painting in the Renaissance was an art of illusionism that eliminated for the viewer any overt sense of its making. Titian’s paintings, in contrast, with their roughly worked and “open” surfaces, unexpected glazes, and thick impasto brushstrokes, made the fact of the paint increasingly visible. Previous scholars have read these paintings as unfinished or the product of lesser studio hands, but in The Muddied Mirror, Jodi Cranston argues that this approach to paint is integral to Titian’s later work. Rather than presenting in paint a precise reflection of the visible world, the artist imparted an intrinsic corporeality to his subjects through the varying mass and thickness of the paint. It is precisely the materiality and “disfiguration” of these paintings that offer us the key to understanding their meanings. More important, the subjects of Titian’s late paintings are directly related to the materiality of the body—they represent physical changes wrought through violence, metamorphosis, and desire.

“Cranston has enormous insight into not only the artist’s brush and its application onto the surface—perhaps no other Renaissance artist was as tactile as Titian—but also the underlying meaning of themes chosen by artist and patron.”

—Patricia Meilman, author of The Cambridge Companion to Titian