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Titian.Saint John the Baptist Tuesday, November 6, 2012

For the first time in its galleries, the Museum is exhibiting Saint John the Baptist (ca.1555), recently attributed to Titian. Since its arrival at the Museum in 1872 it was catalogued as a work by an anonymous, seventeenth-century Madrid artist. Following years of research and its recent restoration, the painting (which was on deposit from the Prado in the parish church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen in Cantoria, Almeria, between 1886 and 2007) has now proved to be an original work by Titian based on his previous version of Saint John the Baptist in the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, of around 1530-32.

Titian.Saint John the Baptist

Saint John the Baptist, Titian. Oil on canvas, 195 x 127,5 cm, ca. 1555, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Until 10 February Titian’s canvas from the Prado’s collection will be on display in Room D (Jerónimos Building) alongside the other two versions. Traditionally accepted as autograph works, the earlier one is in the Accademia, Venice, and the later one has been loaned from the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.

Saint John the Baptist in the Prado

Saint John the Baptist is the only work by Titian in the Prado not to have originally been in the Spanish royal collections. Rather, it came via the Museo de la Trinidad, entering the Museum in 1872 as by an “anonymous Madrid School artist of the seventeenth century”. As such it was sent fourteen years later to the parish church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen in Cantoria in the province of Almeria.

In the catalogue of the exhibition Titian, held at the Prado in 2003, Miguel Falomir, Head of the Department of Italian and French Painting (up to 1700) at the Museum and the exhibition’s curator, proposed that the present painting could be a copy of a now lost Baptist by Titian. In the light of this suggestion in 2007 the Museum embarked on a study of the work, reaching the conclusion that it was not a copy but an original by Titian. Technical characteristics such as the preparatory layer of white lead with added calcium carbonate as well as the similarity between the landscape and those found in other works by the artist of the early 1550s allowed for its date to be established.

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