Titian's Annunciation in San Salvador
The church of San Salvador has two paintings by Titian – one that I absolutely love and another that I’m not that crazy about. The painting on the high altar (The Transfiguration) is the one I don’t love – some art historians think it was badly restored and maybe that’s true; it looks a bit flat to me and the colors look strange. But no worries, because the other Titian is a mind-blower – The Annunciation (third altar on the right). Titian was over 70 years old when he painted this one. Mary is being approached by Archangel Gabriel, who looks particularly powerful and androgynous, but all the action is in that impressionistic burst of energy, angels, and light above them.
There’s another Titian Annunciation in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, painted almost thirty years earlier, and it’s really interesting to compare them - the San Rocco one (below) is gorgeous, but it’s so quiet and serene while the San Salvador one is explosive.
There’s an interesting mystery connected to the signature on the San Salvador painting. Titian signed his name and then wrote “fecit fecit” (he did it, he did it). Some scholars think that he was being grouchy and addressing critics who might think that the painting was unfinished or had been done by artists from his workshop and not by him. But Lorenzetti (Venice and its Lagoon) says that Titian signed it that way “to emphasize the miracle of his activity” and that makes more sense to me. I think he knew it was a great painting.