Titian masterpieces to be displayed together for first time since 1704

One of the most important groups of high Renaissance paintings is to be brought together for the first time in more than 300 years.

A partnership between galleries in London, Edinburgh, Boston and Madrid was announced on Thursday which will allow five of Titian’s greatest paintings to be seen as they were intended – together as a series.

The paintings, meditations on love and death, are part of Titian’s epic series of large-scale mythological paintings commissioned by Philip II of Spain and known as the “poesie”.

Danaë, one of the paintings that will be featured.

Danaë, one of the paintings that will be featured. Photograph: Stratfield Saye Preservation Trust

Six paintings make up the series. Five are part of the newly announced partnership and will go on display together, for the first time since 1704, at London’s National Gallery next year.

The sixth painting, Perseus and Andromeda, will be a 30-minute walk away, at the Wallace Collection, which is prevented – due to the terms of its bequest – from lending any of its artworks.

Perseus and Andromeda from the Wallace Collection.

Perseus and Andromeda from the Wallace Collection. Photograph: The Wallace Collection

Matthias Wivel, the National Gallery’s curator of 16th-century Italian paintings, said it had long been considered impossible to get the masterpieces together.

He said the paintings, explorations of the fruits and perils of love, “are among Titian’s supreme achievements, both conceptually and technically – in psychological insight as well as expressive paint handling.

“They rank amongst the most significant paintings of the 16th century and the all-time great visual statements on the themes of love and death.”

The paintings depict stories from classical mythology, primarily from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and were painted between about 1551 and 1562.

Diana and Actaeon.

Diana and Actaeon. Photograph: National Gallery photographic department/National Gallery London/National Galleries of Scotland

They include Diana and Callisto and Diana and Actaeon, which were subjects of a national campaign to buy from the Duke of Sutherland and are now jointly owned by the National Gallery and the National Galleries of Scotland.

The others are Danaë, in the Wellington Collection at Apsley House; Venus and Adonis, from the Prado museum in Madrid; and the newly conserved Rape of Europa from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston.

Rape of Europa.

Rape of Europa. Photograph: Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, Boston

Following the London show from 16 March to 14 June 2020, the poesie will travel to Edinburgh (6 July to 27 September 2020), Madrid (20 October 2020 to 10 January 2021) and Boston (11 February to 9 May 2021).

The paintings were in the Spanish royal collection until 1704 when they were given to the French. They were later added to the famous art collection of Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, until the fallout from the French Revolution led to their sale and dispersal.


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