The Poesie by Titan: poetry in painting

 

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Europa by Titan

Although art is territorial, it’s never divisional; it crosses over the branches of art and begets a hybrid of wondrous beauty that spreads through the mind of the beholder and lingers there in alterations, evoking an arch of endless imaginations and a well of inspirations, appealing to our human faculty that is rather physical than metaphysical, sensual than intellectual. It’s a mating of the Senses, a marriage of Reasons perfected in letters or paintings, all in the mastery of stories, colors, and forms begotten by divine madness of artists copulating with a sensation of the flesh in putting a method of expression to its love bed of paper or canvas. Such a love child of arts results in Titan’s riveting masterpiece the ‘Poesie.’

Titan (1488-1576), one of the most celebrated artists of the Italian Renaissance, created the ‘Poesie,’ a cycle of 6 mythological paintings inspired by Ovid’s ‘the Metamorphoses,’ stories about famous mythological figures in poetry, which was the very reason that Titan chose it as his subjects. Originally commissioned by Phillip II, the life-sized portrait of whose father Emperor Charles V catapulted Titan to stardom in European courts, the ‘Poesie’ gave him the artistic freedom to experiment with different styles of painting incorporating secular subjects that attracted the welcome attention of intellectually ambitious aristocrats. The ‘Poesie,’ meaning poetry in French, is a hexaptych of human emotions expressed in mythological figures that are all too familiar and universal common to all human creatures. It displays the vagaries of human emotions, ranging from euphoria to anguish, passion to regret, and greed to pain, all the artistry in each of the paintings. Titan wanted to create the visual equivalent of the poetry in which Venus burning in passion for her young object of desire Adonis, Europa ravished by Zeus in a bull’s hide, Actaeon chancing upon Diana’s bath and other divine and mortal beings, such as Danae, Perseus, Andromeda, and Calisto intermingled in sensual pursuits were to be translated by strokes of a brush, plays of colors, and dramas of human feelings and emotions. In fact, it is this Titan’s talent both as a storyteller and a painter that sets him apart from his contemporaries and renders the work immortally enshrined in the atrium of universal arts.

The ‘Poesie’ is currently on display in London’s National Gallery exhibition for the first time in over 4 centuries, following an example of Vatican’s concomitant display of Raphael’s tapestries at the Sistine Chapel. Notwithstanding the thematic and geographic differences, the works of the masters delight the eyes of ours as harbingers of art as artifacts of human civilization consisting of the standard of taste and reason universal in all human creatures as regards the principles of judgment and sentiment common to the eyes and minds of all mankind.

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