Major conservation work confirms Dulwich painting as a significant work from the Studio of Titian

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Major conservation work confirms Dulwich painting as a significant work from the Studio of Titian
The painting was originally acquired for the King of Poland in the 1790s by the Gallery’s founder NoŽl Desenfans as a work by Titian.

LONDON.- Recent conservation and scientific analysis have identified Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Venus and Adonis as an authentic 16th-century work executed in Titian’s studio.

The painting was originally acquired for the King of Poland in the 1790s by the Gallery’s founder NoŽl Desenfans as a work by Titian, but due to extensive retouching and its deteriorating physical state the painting was demoted to the status of a late 17th-century copy and removed from display over 100 years ago. Until now the heavy layers of yellow varnish have obscured the painting’s workmanship, but careful conservation has revealed the work to be an evocative rendition of an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, centring upon the last meeting of the ill-fated lovers Venus and Adonis. The delicate luminosity of Venus’s flesh tones and the exuberance of Adonis’s hounds as they depart for the hunt indicate that the painting was created in Titian’s studio and within his own lifetime.

Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Venus and Adonis is a version of the celebrated painting sent by Titian to his patron King Philip II of Spain in 1554, now at the Prado Museum, Madrid. Venus and Adonis was one of the artist’s ‘poesie’ - an ambitious series of large-scale paintings dealing with mythological themes - and proved to be one of Titian’s most sought-after and enduring masterpieces. Demand for the composition motivated the artist to produce made-to-order versions, often with changes included to suit the patron, such as the Tyrolean hat that Adonis wears in this rendition.

Dulwich Picture Gallery has organised a special display which will run from 10 July 2012 to 13 January 2013 to celebrate the return of this significant work to the Gallery, where it will hang as the centrepiece at the end of the historic enfilade. The painting will be joined by two other works from the permanent collection: the Gallery’s 17th-century copy of Titian’s Rape of Europa which was part of the original Poesie series (now at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston), and Rubens’s oil sketch of Venus mourning the death of Adonis to illustrate the tragic conclusion to the story of the two lovers.

Venus and Adonis was so highly rated by the founders of Dulwich Picture Gallery that they commissioned a special frame to display it. This highly ornate frame has also been in storage for over 100 years and the Gallery is currently seeking funds to restore it to its original splendour. Despite its present condition it will be reunited with Venus and Adonis for the first time since the 19th century, and from Wednesday 4 July until Friday 6 July a Frame Conservator will consolidate the frame in the Gallery where visitors will have the unique opportunity to see him at work.

This display is part of a celebration of Titian’s Poesie in London this summer. The Wallace Collection’s Perseus and Andromeda will be on show in the museum’s Great Gallery, while Diana and Callisto, Diana and Actaeon and the unfinished Death of Actaeon will be united for the first time in 200 years at The National Gallery’s exhibition ‘Metamorphosis: Titian 2012’ (11 July-23 September 2012).

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