Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro

This masterpiece of Venetian art is characterised by further research carried out after the innovation of ‘The Assumption’ (1518). Titian’s genius was that he had moved the Virgin Mary with the child from the traditional central position to the side. Nevertheless the Virgin, seated on a throne resting against a huge column, remains at the summit of the geometric pyramid created by the other characters, and, by virtue of the splendid use of colours, it is the central focus point of the painting. Against a background of velvet clouds, intersected by two almighty columns, which add space and dimension to the arrangement of the shapes, Titian places the Virgin and child at the centre of the dynamics of the painting by employing a deviously intelligent use of perspective and colour. In front of the Virgin, just below her, St. Peter, wearing a delightful blue vestment with a glorious yellow mantle draped over his knees, interrupts his reading and presents to her Jacopo Pesaro, the Bishop and Commander of twenty Papal galleys in the triumphant battle against the Turks at Santa Maura (1503). Next to him, a standard-bearer displays the flag carrying the coat of arms of Pope Alexander VI. The laurel on the flag and the Turk with the white turban are symbols of victory. On the right, the Child, who is playing with the border of the white veil, is smiling at St. Francis who presents the kneeling members of the Pesaro family to the Virgin Mary while St. Anthony looks on. In the foreground, there is Francesco, with an endearing scarlet vestment, raised to the dignity of knighthood. On the same level, Antonio, Fantino and Giovanni can be seen. Just beneath them is the nephew of Francesco, Leonardo, son of Antonio, who is looking at the observer in an innocent and carefree manner with eyes that follow the observer wherever he stands.

Up above, two angels put right a skew-whiff cross while sitting on a dark fluffy cloud which throws its shadow on to the two columns and characters below. The precision of detail, the splendour of colour, the powerful expressions of the characters make this painting one of the most important masterpieces of all time.

The assumption

The stunning altar-piece (6.68 x 3.44 metres), started in 1516 and formed by 21 horizontal lines, was positioned in the marble frame on 19th May 1518.

The painting is made of three levels: at the bottom there are the apostles, stunned and agitated for the incredible event. In the middle, the Madonna, extremely light, embedded in the light and surrounded y a crowd of angels. At the top, the Father who, in a pose of serene and majestic dignity, attracts the gaze of the Virgin.



The geometry of the painting, marked by the triangle of red colours, lead us to look up, towards the top; the light, on the contrary, consists of life, love, joy which fall from above. It emanates bright from the Father, runs through the Virgin and the angels in a golden aura; eventually, it becomes the blue of the sky. At the bottom, in the middle of the painting, we can find Titian’s signature: Ticianus (in Latin).

This is a groundwork work of the young artist; it is, in fact, his final … – so much so that it has become his most famous image.




Nel 1817 the altar-piece was transferred to the Academy of Fine Arts.

On 1917, during the First World War, the painting was transported to Cremona. After the battle of Caporetto, it was transferred to Pisa where it remained for 2 years. Finally on December 14, 1919, the famous altarpiece returned to Venice.

The painting was transferred again during the Second World War. First it was moved to Strà and then to Ca’ Rezzonico. On August 13, 1945 it was finally put back in its original place. From that day the Assumption has continued to shine from its frame, an icon of art and faith.