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Religion assisted by Spain
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)
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Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)

Pieve di Cadore, Belluno, Veneto (Italy), 1490 - Venice (Italy), 1576

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) See author's file

Religion assisted by Spain

1572 - 1575. Oil on canvas.
Room 024

Religion succoured by Spain (c.1572-75), belongs to the last group of paintings that Titian sent to Philip II in 1576, one year before the artist’s death. As such, it is almost seven decades older than the earliest work by Titian, The Virgin and Child between Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Roch (P288), c.1510. Contemplating the two together allows viewers to recognise and admire Titian’s exceptional stylistic evolution over the course of a very long career. This work commemorates the Spanish Monarchy’s achievement at the Battle of Lepanto (1571) and is a fine example of the malleability of allegorical elements, with which Titian embodies three different meanings in a single, barely altered composition. In 1568 Giorgio Vasari saw a mythological canvas in Titian’s workshop. Commissioned by Alphonse I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, and unfinished at the time of the latter’s death in 1534, it depicted a young male nude, which bows to Minerva, with another figure, and the sea, in the distance is Neptune in his chariot. The painting was modified and sent to Emperor Maximilian II before November 1568, when the imperial legate to Venice mentioned it as Religion. That same year it was engraved by Giulio Fontana, whose print bears a composition similar, although subtly different, to the Museo del Prado’s painting. In the engraving, it is the Empire that comes to the aid of Religion, and while the remains of a battle are equally visible, the tone is more compromising. In the painting, Spain appears armed with a cuirass, lance and shield, hand in hand with a woman carrying a sword (Justice). In the engraving, however, the Empire wears a tunic and carries a banner rather than a lance. The woman behind her is unarmed, bearing only a laurel branch symbolising Peace. A similar message is transmitted by the figure in the marine chariot pulled by seahorses: in the engraving she is Amphitrite, goddess of tranquil seas, but in the painting Poseidon takes her place, wearing a threatening Turkish turban. The meaning of these changes is clear: after Lepanto, the compromising Empire gives way to bellicose Spain. This process is fascinating, as the transition from the original mythological setting to the final religious allegory requires only a few iconographic changes, without altering the composition or resorting to new expressive means. Amphitrite becomes Poseidon, while Minerva turns into Spain, bearing Philip II’s coat of arms. Finally, the giovane ignuda (young male nude) mentioned by Vasari is transformed into the Catholic religion. Spain is thus shown defending the Catholic faith, not only against the Turks, but against all enemies -the snakes symbolise Protestant heresy. The most enigmatic figure is the man on the right, probably Philip II’s half-brother Juan of Austria, who commanded the Christian fleet at Lepanto.

X-rays show that the Museo del Prado’s work is derived from the one sent to Maximiliano, now lost, as it bears elements present in Fontana’s engraving. Thus, the figure of Spain originally wore a flared tunic rather than a cuirass and held the hand of the woman following her, who did not carry a sword. In addition to Maximilian II’s lost original, there is also an unfinished version at the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in Rome. Philip II sent this painting to the Alcázar Palace in Madrid, where it remained in the Spanish Royal Collection until 1839, when it entered the Museo del Prado.

Falomir Faus, M., Titian 'Religion succoured by Spain' En:. Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, p.80


Technical data

Related artworks

Religion Rescued by the Empire
Etching, Burin on laid paper, Ca. 1566
Fontana, Giulio
Inventory number
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)
Religion assisted by Spain
1572 - 1575
Height: 168 cm; Width: 168 cm
Royal Collection (Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid, “Sala del Capítulo Vicarial”, 1839).

Bibliography +

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Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 430.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 430.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 476.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 805.
Tiziano / 805. La fe catolica acogiendose al amparo de la España. (alegoria). / aquella esta representada en forma de una doncella desnuda, triste y afligida, rodeada de serpientes y arrimada a un arbol, puestas las rodillas sobre una piedra. La España, figurada en una noble matrona, vestida de guerrera, a la cual acompañan la justicia y gran sequito de gente armada, la ofrece su amparo contra los males que la acosan. En el fondo se ve el mar con varias embarcaciones turcas que amenazan destruir el catolicismo, defendido por las armas españolas en el reynado de Felipe 2º (E.) / Alto 6 pies; ancho 6 pies

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 805.

Inscriptions +

Signed. Front, lower right corner

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

¡Hola Prado! Two Collections in Dialogue
08.04.2017 - 20.08.2017

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

Tiziano maduro y la sensualidad de la pintura
01.02.2008 - 04.05.2008

Tiziano maduro y la sensualidad de la pintura
17.10.2007 - 06.01.2008

Gli Este a Ferrara: Un Rinascimento singolare ed i Camerini di Alabastro di Alfonso I d'Este
01.03.2004 - 04.07.2004

Gli Este a Ferrara: Un Rinascimento singolare ed i Camerini di Alabastro di Alfonso I d'Este
03.10.2003 - 01.02.2004

10.06.2003 - 07.09.2003

Obras Maestras del Museo del Prado - Tokio
05.03.2002 - 23.06.2002

Las tierras y los hombres del rey
22.10.1998 - 10.01.1999

Felipe II. La monarquía hispánica
San Lorenzo de El Escorial
30.05.1998 - 31.10.1998

Location +

Room 024 (On Display)


Displayed objects +



Shield / Coat of Arms: Escudo heráldico de Felipe II


Lances / Spears


Update date: 09-04-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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