In Brescia you can see Titian's Averoldi Polyptych up close with a special ramp

Until July 3, Brescia is celebrating the fifth centenary of the Averoldi Polyptych, a masterpiece by Titian, with a unique event, 'Face to Face with Titian': a structure has been set up that allows people to see the work up close, which is usually instead only visible from below and from afar.

Until July 3, Brescia will be the protagonist of an unprecedented event that offers an unprecedented opportunity to see the Averoldi Polyptych, a masterpiece by Titian Vecellio, up close.In fact, the Collegiate Church of Saints Nazaro and Celso is hosting.Face to face with Titian, an initiative conceived and curated by Davide Dotti, organized by the Parish of Saints Nazaro and Celso and realized thanks to the contribution of the Brescian company Antares Vision, which allows visitors to admire for the first time the famous Averoldi Polyptych, painted by Titian in 1522, from an unprecedented, close-up perspective, at a distance of only two and a half meters, to appreciate its extraordinary pictorial quality and dazzling expressive power. The work is in fact placed in an elevated position, and is therefore difficult to read.

On the occasion of the fifth centenary of its arrival in Brescia, a structure will be specially set up in the presbytery of the church that will allow the public to ascend to a height of seven meters, allowing a new view of the masterpiece by the Cadore master, considered by critics to be one of the milestones of the Renaissance, the bearer of numerous innovations from an aesthetic and stylistic point of view.

Ever since the church was redeveloped, starting in the mid-eighteenth century, the Averoldi Polyptych - signed and dated "Ticianvs Faciebat / MDXXII," immovable due to its fragility, composed of five panels painted in oil on panel - has been visible only from below and from a great distance. While its elevated location allows an overall view of the work within the monumental architectural layout of the temple, it does not allow the viewer to grasp details and details of great importance and quality, such as the portrait of the commissioner (the powerful Brescian bishop Altobello Averoldi, papal legate in Venice), the signature and date affixed by Titian on the column rhinoceros on which Saint Sebastian rests his right foot, the extraordinary physicality of the Redeemer’s athletic body, the gentleness of the Virgin’s profile, the long golden ringlets framing the announcing angel’s face, and the numerous repentances, detectable even to the naked eye, such as the change in the position of the legs and the fluttering fabric encircling Christ’s hips.

“On May 31, 2022,” recalls Monsignor Giambattista Francesconi, parish priest of Saints Nazaro and Celso, “in the presence of Bishop Monsignor Pierantonio Tremolada, the parish of Saints Nazaro and Celso united with the city of Brescia will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the placement of Titian’s Averoldi Polyptych in the Collegiate Church. Such an anniversary could not be forgotten. To celebrate it, it was my desire to create an original way to see the work up close, admiring its details and undisputed beauty. I would like to thank Davide Dotti and Elena Frosio, with whom I shared this dream from the very beginning, which, thanks to their respective skills, found this extraordinary solution. I thank Emidio Zorzella of Antares Vision who, fond of his parish, supports the proposal financially. Therefore, I invite you to visit the Collegiate Church and in particular the Averoldi Polyptych: if you love art you will enjoy the work ’face to face’; if you are a believer you will contemplate movedly the Mystery of the Resurrection.”

“As an art historian,” says Davide Dotti, “I have nurtured since I was a boy the dream of being able to admire up close the Averoldi Polyptych, one of the absolute masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance, which decisively influenced the expressive vocabulary of contemporary Brescian painters, Moretto and Romanino in primis. On the occasion of the fifth centenary of the work’s arrival in Brescia, therefore, I thought of offering all Brescians, and not only, the unique and unrepeatable opportunity to live an emotional and unforgettable experience: that of being able to be ’Face to Face with Titian’ to fully appreciate the extraordinary pictorial quality of the Averoldi Polyptych, the dense and vigorous chromaticism and the powerful plastic construction of the figures where one can discern a clear tribute to Michelangelo’s two ”Prisoners“ in the Louvre and to the sculptural group of the ”Laocoon.“ Only by admiring the Polyptych up close will the public be able to understand the sublime genius of the great Venetian master.”

Viewing of the work is organized for groups of up to 15 people who will be provided with an audio guide; groups will be accompanied on the viewing route by volunteers, according to a 20-minute rotation; Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The politician was commissioned from Titian around 1519 by Altobello Averoldi of Brescia, bishop of Pula and papal legate in Venice, with the aim of placing it on the high altar of the church of Saints Nazaro and Celso of which he had been provost since 1515. After a long ideational and executive phase witnessed by several preparatory drawings and numerous repentances visible even to the naked eye, having escaped an attempt by the Duke of Ferrara Alfonso I d’Este-orchestrated through his ambassador in Venice Jacopo Tebaldi-to persuade Titian to sell him for a very considerable sum the panel with Saint Sebastian, which the master himself considered “la migliore pictura ch’el facesse mai,” the polyptych was put in place in the church of Santi Nazaro e Celso on May 31, 1522.

The Resurrection of Christ stands out in the central panel; Jesus victorious, with his body in motion and twisting, holds in his right hand the crusader banner symbolizing triumph over death. The upper register depicts the episode of the Annunciation divided into two separate panels. In the one on the left, against a dark background, stands out the elegant and luminous figure of the Archangel Gabriel unfurling a phylactery with the inscription “Ave Gratia Plena”; in the one on the right, the Virgin with delicate features and her head slightly bowed, brings her right hand to her breast in sign of acceptance. The left panel of the lower register, on the other hand, depicts the patron saints Nazaro and Celso in armor, in the company of the patron Altobello Averoldi caught in prayer with folded hands. The one on the right is entirely occupied by the splendid figure of Saint Sebastian with his exhausted body supported by ropes tied to a tree, a brilliant Titianesque idea derived from knowledge of Michelangelo ’s two Prisons now in the Louvre dating from about 1513, known as The Dying S lave and The Rebel Slave, once intended to be part of the tomb of Pope Julius II.

A catalog published by Grafica Sette and edited by Davide Dotti accompanies the initiative.

For all information, you can click here.

Pictured is the structure that allows viewing of the polyptych.

In Brescia you can see Titian's Averoldi Polyptych up close with a special ramp
In Brescia you can see Titian's Averoldi Polyptych up close with a special ramp

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