Renaissance Beauty – Titian’s La Bella

The Portland Art Museum is currently hosting La Bella, an Italian painting that was recently cleaned and conserved. This Renaissance beauty was painted in about 1536 by the Venetian artist Tiziano Vecelli (commonly referred to as “Titian”). The painting belongs to the Italian people, and is part of the Palazzo Pitti’s permanent collection. The Palazzo Pitti is in Florence, and has a long history of powerful inhabitants and owners – the Medici, Napolean, and King Victor Emmanuel III, who donated the palace and its contents to the Italian people in 1919.

The museum has La Bella in her own little gallery, with attractive lighting, a bench to sit on, and lots of information written about it on the back wall. I was surprised at how small the painting is – 890 x 750 mm. I don’t know why I expected a life sized painting. The first photo below gives you an idea of the small size of the painting and the interesting way it was displayed here in Portland. The next two photos below show the difference in the colors before and after its restoration.

Titian exhibit at Portland Art Museum: one painting!

View into gallery with La Bella. ©2011 Todd Mecklem

La Bella, after conservation. Photo courtesy of Palazzo Pitti.

Before conservation. Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY Source: Grove Art Online

I was fascinated by looking up close at the detailed brush strokes.The gold necklace links and the sumptuous embroidery were amazing. Titian captured La Bella’s gaze beautifully, with direct eye contact and a sense of mystery.

Close up. Photo courtesy Nevada Art Museum

Titian’s masterpiece will be at the Portland Art Museum through January 29, 2012. For more information, I liked Bob Hick’s article in the Oregonian and a brief history of the painting on the Kimbell Art Museum’s website. I also used my Multnomah County Library card to access Oxford Art Online, which has a much more scholarly discussion of the painting.


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