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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


1548 - 1549. Oil on canvas.
Room 027

The literary source for the Furies is Ovid´s Metamorphoses (IV, 447-464) and Virgil´s Aeneid (VI, 457-8), which recounts the eternal sufferings in Hades of Tityus, whose liver was devoured by a vulture as a punishment for having raped Latona; Tantalus, condemned to try to reach food and drink in vain for having killed and cooked his son Pelops as a banquet for the gods; Sisyphus, founder and king of Corinth, obliged to push a rock for ever uphill for having recounted Zeus´ affair with Egina; and Ixion, who had tried to seduce Juno, for which he was forever condemned to turn on an endless wheel. The choice of such unusual subject-matter -up to that point Titian´s commissions from the Habsburgs were all portraits- lies with Mary of Hungary (1505-1558), and her intentions are clear when the works hung in their original locations. On 22 August 1549 the Great Room in the Palace of Binche was inaugurated, the decoration of which is known through documentary sources. The paintings were hung high up between large windows, while the lengthy description provided by Calvete de Estrella (1552) indicates the coherence of an iconographic programme whose main idea was to emphasise the misery and endless punishment of those who rise up against the gods. In a setting filled with classical references, the Tityus and Sisyphus by Titian and the Tantalus by Coxcie occupied one long side of the room, opposite a series of tapestries with the victory of the Virtues over the Vices (avarice again represented by Tantalus). On the end walls were medallions of Hadrian and Julius Caesar, and above them paintings by Coxcie with the competition between Apollo and Marsyas and the later flaying of the satyr. Emphasising this idea, the room also contained representations of the giant Enceladus burned by Zeus, of Phaeton and Plegias, father of Ixion, condemned to hell for having burned the temple of Apollo in Delphi, accompanied by related inscriptions. With the paintings of the Furies, commissioned in Augsburg after the Battle of Mühlberg, Mary intended to show the destiny of those who rise up against their legitimate ruler, clothing her message in mythological guise and comparing the challenge to the gods with that of the German princes to the emperor.

The way in which these episodes are represented reveals the use of elements from Christian iconography translated into the mythological realm. To visualise Hades, Titian used fire -and in the case of Sisyphus two enormous monsters whose open jaws directly recall images of the Last Judgement- while the negative character of the various figures is suggested by the presence of serpents, elements not found in Ovid and also present in the print of Tantalus.

The Furies are inconceivable without Titian´s Roman experience. While there had been a copy of the Hellenistic sculpture known as the Gauls or Galatians in Venice since at least 1523 and which the lost Tantalus is based on, it is only after 1546 that we can detect in Titian´s work a satisfactory blend of classical statuary and the art of Michelangelo. As in the contemporary paintings for Santo Spirito in Isola (now in Santa Maria della Salute, Venice), or the Vision of Saint John the Evangelist (Washington, National Gallery), which uses the same devises of looking down on the figures from above found in the Furies, we see Titian using figures with monumental anatomy, often nude, and which create the space around them, rather than vice versa. What is interesting is that despite these sources, Titian´s use of colour produced works that were very different in character. Sisyphus is the best example, as in contrast to the Tityus, the feeling of dynamism is not just limited to the body, but is also evident in the vibrant tongues of flame and lava which fall from the mountain peak, represented with dense brushstrokes of red and yellow.

The Furies remained in Binche until the palace was destroyed by French troops in 1554. In 1558 Mary of Hungary bequeathed them to Philip II who sent them to the Alcazar in Madrid, where in 1566 the poet Juan de Mal Lara composed four Latin verses and an octave for each one. They remained there until the fire of 1734 in which the Ixion and Tantalus were destroyed. After a brief period in the Buen Retiro, where they are mentioned in 1747, they hung in the ante-room of the Palacio Real Nuevo until they entered the Museo del Prado in 1828.

Falomir Faus, Miguel, Tiziano, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2003, p.214


Technical data

Related artworks

Oil on canvas, Ca. 1565
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)
Inventory number
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)
1548 - 1549
Height: 237 cm; Width: 216 cm
Las Furias, Gran Sala del Palacio de Binche, Bruselas
Royal Collection (Royal Alcázar, Madrid, "salón de los espejos-cuartos principales", 1700, no. 3; New Royal Palace, Madrid, "primera sala de la Furriera", 1747, no. 32, New Royal Palace, Madrid, "antecámara de su majestad", 1772, no. 32; New Royal Palace, Madrid, "antecámara", 1814-1818, no. 32).

Bibliography +

Inventario Palacio Real de Madrid., III, Madrid, 1868, pp. 22.

Berenson, Bernard, The Venetian painters of the Renaissance: with an index to their works, G. P. Putnam's Sons, Nueva York.Londres, 1894, pp. 142.

Gronau, Georg, Titian, Duckworth and Co.Charles Scribners, Londres-Nueva York, 1911, pp. 153.

Beroqui, P., Tiziano en el museo del Prado, Boletín de la Sociedad Española de Excursiones, 34, 1926, pp. 246.

Suida, W, Le Titien, Weber, Paris, 1935, pp. lám.228.

Noul, M., Sotomayor, F., Muguruza, P., Les chefs-d'oeuvre du Musée du Prado, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Ginebra, 1939, pp. 35.

Wethey, Harold E., The paintings of Titian, Phaidon, Londres, 1969.

Pallucchini, Rodolfo, Tiziano, I, G.C. Sansoni, Florencia, 1969, pp. lám. 340.

Cagli, Corrado, La obra pictórica completa de Tiziano, Noguer, Barcelona, 1971.

Bermejo de la Rica, A., La Mitologia en el Museo del Prado, Editora Nacional, Madrid, 1974, pp. 265-266.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: pintura italiana anterior a 1600, Gredos, Madrid, 1979, pp. 146-150.

Fasolo, Ugo, Ticiano, Becocci, Florencia, 1980, pp. 64.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 701-702.

Orso, Steven N., Philip IV and the decoration of the Alcazar of Madrid, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1986, pp. 45, 70, 78-79, 82-83, 95-96.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Goffen, Rona, Titian's Women, Yale University Press, Yale, 1994, pp. 255 / lám. 151.

Checa Cremades, Fernando, Tiziano y la monarquía hispánica: usos y funciones de la pintura veneciana en España (siglos XVI y XVII), Nerea, Madrid, 1994, pp. 92; 263-265, n. 34.

Bettagno, Alessandro, El Museo del Prado, Fonds Mercator, Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 203.

Checa Cremades, Fernando, Un príncipe del renacimiento: Felipe II, un monarca y su época, Sociedad Estatal para la Conmemoración de los centenarios de Felipe II y Carlos V, Madrid, 1998, pp. 357.

Falomir, M, Pintura italiana del Renacimiento: guía, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1999.

Falomir Faus, Miguel, Tiziano, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2003, pp. 214.

Puttfarken, Thomas, Titian & Tragic Painting : Aristotle's Poetics and the Rise, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2005, pp. 81.

Le botteghe di Tiziano, Alinari 24 ORE, 2009, pp. 364.

Falomir, Miguel, Tintoretto y Tiziano, Congreso Internacional Jacopo Tintoretto (Madrid 2007), 2009, pp. 66-71.

Pierguidi, Stefano, Il ratto di Elena di Guido Reni nel contesto dell' 'Salón Nuevo' dell'Alcázar di Madrid, Studi di Storia dell'Arte, 22, 2011, pp. 145-158 [148-150].

Carrasco Ferrer, M, La Iconografía Mitológica en el Palacio de Binche bajo María de Hungría, Anales de historia del arte, 21, 2011, pp. 69-91 [76].

Falomir Faus, Miguel, 'El desafío artístico: Escorzos inverosímiles y expresiones extremas.' En:, Las Furias. Alegoría política y desafío artístico, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2013, pp. 75-124 [75,77-83, 90].

Falomir Faus, Miguel, 'Originalidad e imitación: antiguos y modernos.' En:, Las Furias. Alegoría política y desafío artístico, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2013, pp. 125-137 [126].

Checa Cremades, Fernando, Tiziano y las cortes del Renacimiento, Marcial Pons Historia, 2013, pp. 294, f.39.

Falomir Faus, Miguel, 'Tiziano, María de Hungría y la alegoría.' En:, Las Furias. Alegoría política y desafío artístico, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2013, pp. 25-62 [30,42,49,55,59 fg.23].

Falomir Faus, Miguel, 'De monarcas, traidores y amantes depechados.' En:, Las Furias. Alegoría política y desafío artístico, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2014, pp. 63-74 [65].

Falomir Faus, Miguel, Las Furias. Alegoría política y desafío artístico, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2014, pp. 138 n.5.

Georgievska-Shine, Aneta Silver, Larry, Rubens, Velázquez, and the King of Spain, Ashgate, Surrey, 2014, pp. 14.

Barbeitio, J. M., De arte y arquitectura. El Salón de los Espejoa en el Alcázar de Madrid, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXXIII (51), 2015, pp. 24-43 [30-41].

Grosso, Marsel, Fonti antiche e moderne per la pittura religiosa di Tiziano nel sesto decennio, Arte Veneta., 72, 2015, pp. 60-75 [61 f.4].

Other inventories +

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Alcázar de Madrid, 1701-1703. Núm. 3.
Salon de los expejos / Quarto prinçipales [...] 3 / Yttem quatro Pintturas yguales de las furias de a tres Varas de alto y dos y media de Ancho Originales de mano de tiçiano Con marcos negros tasados a qunientos Doblones Cada Vna hazen Dos mill ... 2000

Inv. Felipe V, Palacio Nuevo, 1747. Núm. 32.
PINTURAS EXISTENTES ANTIGUAS [...] En la primera Sala de este Oficio [de la Furriera] [...] {10251} 32 / Otra [pintura] de Sísifo cargando con vn peñasco tambien original del Ticiano de menos de tres varas de alto y dos y media de ancho = en 10 mil reales

Inv. Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1772. Núm. 32.
Antecamara de S. M. [..] [12680] 32 / Otro [quadro] compañero e igual al antecedente [mas de tres varas de alto y dos y media de ancho] aunque de menos caida que representa a Sisifo cargado con su peña = [a lápis moderno=] Ticiano

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. 32.
Antecámara [...] {21125} 32 / Igual [3 varas alto 2 de ancho] Sisifo con la peña

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. 32.
Antecámara [...] [2] 32 / Otro [quadro] de la misma [medida], que el antecedente [tres varas de alto, por dos de ancho], Sisifo con la Peña Yd [Ticiano] ... 9000

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 426.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 426.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 465.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 756.
Tiziano. / 756. Sisifo. / El malvado Sisifo, muerto por Teseo, / fue condenado por Júpiter en los infier- / nos à subir continuamente por una / montaña escarpada una enorme pe- / ña redonda, la cual al momento que / llegaba arriba volvia à caer con pre- / cipitacion à la llanura. Fondo: peñas / escarpadas. (Figura colosal.) / Alto 8 pies, 6 pulg; ancho 7 pies, 9 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 756.

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

32 [parte inferior no visible]
Inscribed in red color. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

06.06.2020 - 25.07.2021

The "Furias". From Titian to Ribera
21.01.2014 - 04.05.2014

10.06.2003 - 07.09.2003

Location +

Room 027 (On Display)

Update date: 03-11-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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