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GOLDEN DAY TWENTY-THREE: Experience Titian’s Assumption

March 6, 2010

If you only chase down one painting in Venice, make it this one: Titian’s Assumption of Mary. It’s the centerpiece of the massive Frari–a transcendent action-packed scene of  the Blessed Virgin Mary (aka the BVM) triumphantly being swooped up to golden heaven.

It caused a huge sensation when it was unveiled in 1518. The monks who commissioned it grumbled that it was way too provocative–what with the BVM looking as though she’s dancing up to get her crown. The proper way to portray her pre-Titian was to show her seated on a throne, calmy levitating. But here Titian defines the Venetian Renaissance–swirling emotions into the scene. No one seemed to care what the monks thought, the painting was quickly declared revolutionary, Titian became a superstar, and this Assumption is still recognized as one of the best out there.

Other beauties in the Frari: Titian’s Madonna di Ca Pesaro, where the BVM is modeled after his wife, who died in childbirth, shortly after he finished the painting. And in the sacristy is Bellini’s Madonna triptych, a gorgeous serene image of the BVM surrounded by serenading angels. The Bellini that you’ll be drinking in Venice–that delightful prosecco and peach juice mixture–was named in honor of this artist.  The color of the cocktail matches the robes in this painting.

Next door, in the Scuola San Rocco, check out Titian’s Annunciation on the second floor–a red-robed angel dances in to break the news to Mary.

Lunch nearby at La Bitte (Campo San Barbara, 041 5230531), a favorite of the locals makes the Golden Day complete.

And my favorite place for a Bellini: the bar at The Gritti–a jewel-box of a room to get cozy in winter, or on a sunny day have one on the terrace as you watch the handsome gondoliers glide by on the Grand Canal.

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