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Homage to Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)

Allegory of Prudence ispired byTitian

Seeing Titian's Allegory of Prudence at the National Gallery had a profound impact on my seven year old self. Watching art take shape before my eyes to become something tangible and definite was a normal occurrence for me. I'd become accustomed to sitting in my grandfather's studio as he worked. Sometimes my grandmother would be there painting too, and my mother generally had a painting on-the-go in our farmhouse kitchen, between juggling children, visitors and a menagerie of animals.

As a child, what drew me to Titian's Allegory of Prudence was the combination of wolf, lion, dog and the three ages of man. A sort of 6 headed mythical monster, although it never frightened me.

My subsequent gallery visits always involved another look and I'd scrutinise the painting carefully. Occasionally, the old man in the picture would have a glint of real light in his eye and I'd think for a second he was real! I sketched my own versions, sometimes as a cartoon and sometimes more seriously but adding my own characters.

I can't remember when I came to realise that the old man depicted in the painting was actually Titian himself. A self portrait in profile, and represented as the personification of time, looking back into the past with a cunning and wise old wolf, their lives drawing to a close. The man looking directly into the eyes of the viewer is his son Orazio, representing the present time with the power of the lion. The youth was Titian's nephew Marco Vecellio, symbolically representing the future, with the energy of a young dog.

The hidden meaning of Titian's allegorical painting is perhaps not so hidden because scrawled across it, in a sort of Latin graffiti, is written: "From the experience of the past, the present acts prudently, lest it spoil future actions". Roughly translated it means what you learn from the past should help you to avoid mistakes in the future. Orazio and Marco Vecellio continued Titian's painting tradition and apparently worked together in the same studio. People have speculated that this particular painting may have been worked on by more than one artist. I would like to think that maybe it was a piece contributed to by all three of the family!

I always knew that I would create my own version of this painting purely for my own artistic development and interest. I replaced Titian with my mother, much to her chagrin, and painted myself in the position of Orazio with a darker side which is closer to my mother who faces the past and a lighter side next to my daughter who faces in to the future. I substituted our old dog Midnight for the wolf and our young dog Patch to represent the future. The lion called Tiny was one of three brothers kept together in a big cat sanctuary nearby. Ironically, he wasn't Tiny at all, but the largest of the three. I'd painted him a couple of times before, and he was facially scarred from play-fights with his siblings.

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