Titian's "La Fuga in Egitto" Returns to Venice After More than 250 Years

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 04:52

After twelve years of restoration, Titian's early masterpiece "La Fuga in Egitto" (Flight to Egypt) makes its last-ever Italian appearance at the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice through the 2nd of December.

Centuries of heavy varnish from preservation and restoration attempts had hidden the painting's vibrant pigments and delicate brushstrokes, leaving scholars questioning the piece's authorship. A painstaking recent restoration by Russia's Hermitage of St. Petersburg has returned the painting to its original form.

The 2-metre-by-3-metre canvas depicts the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus on horseback with St. John the Baptist in the lead and Joseph trailing behind as they flee to Egypt from Herod's massacre of the innocents.

Painted by Titian during his twenties, when he left Bellini's workshop to study with Giorgione, the pastoral "La Fuga in Egitto" marked a pivotal point in Renaissance art when natural subjects shifted the background to main focus. The figures' quotidian arrangement points the viewer's focus toward the wild animals frolicking in the grass.

To explore this shift, Irina Artemieva and Giuseppe Pavanello have curated around twenty other gems of Venetian Renaissance landscape painting, including works by Titian's mentors Bellini and Giorgione, in the exhibit "Il Tiziano Mai Visto: La Fuga in Egitto e La Grande Pittura Veneta" (The Never-Before-Seen Titian: "La Fuga in Egitto" and the Great Painters of Venice).

After hanging in the Loredan family palace on the Grand Canal for two centuries, Titian's singular painting was acquired by Catherine the Great in the 1700s and has not returned to Venice since. The piece will return to the Hermitage permanently when the show closes.