|Courtesy of www.Titian.org|
Pope Paul III and His Grandsons was commissioned by the Farnese family and painted during Titian's visit to Rome between autumn 1545 and June 1546. It depicts the thorny relationship
between Pope Paul III, born Alessandro Farnese, and two of his grandsons, Ottavio and Alessandro. Ottavio is shown in the act of kneeling, to his left; Alessandro, wearing a cardinal's dress,
stands behind him to his right. The painting explores the effects of aging and the manoeuvring behind succession; Paul was at the time in his late seventies and operating within an uncertain
political climate as Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, came into ascendancy.
Paul was not a religious man; he viewed the papacy as a means to consolidate his family's position. He appointed Alessandro as cardinal against accusations of nepotism, fathered a number of illegitimate children, and spent large sums of church money collecting art and antiquities. Around 1545 Charles took the political and military advantage, weakening Paul's hold on the papacy. Aware of the changing tides of influence, Titian abandoned the commission before completion, and for the next 100 years the painting languished unframed in a Farnese cellar.
Pope Paul III and His Grandsons ranks as one of Titian's finest and most penetrating works. Although unfinished and less technically accomplished than his Portrait of Pope Paul III of a few years earlier, it is renowned for its rich colouring; the deep reds of the tablecloth and the almost spectral whites of Paul's gown. The panel contains subtle indications of the contradictions in the character of the Pope, and captures the complex psychological dynamic between the three men.