Thomas Library

Honors Thesis Archive

Author Leslie Winter
Title Body, Identity, and Narrative in Titian's Paintings
Department Art History
Advisors Alejandra Gimenez-Berger, Ed Charney, Janice Glowski, and Carmiele Wilkerson
Year 2013
Honors University Honors
Full Text View Thesis (4948 KB) Note: This is a very large file; it may be easier to download the file to your computer and open it from there.
Abstract In the Renaissance, the bodies of individuals were understood as guides to their internal identities, which influenced the public understanding of the figure represented in art—be it in terms of politics, personal life, or legacy. The classicizing and religious paintings by Titian (c. 1488/90-1576) show the subject's state of being, at a particular moment in a story, through the use of body language. The body is a vehicle for narrative that demonstrates the sitter's identity, relating the intricacies of the body to both the mind and the story. By exploring the humanist combination of philosophical theories regarding the relationship between the soul and the body, it is clear that Titian used these concepts to elevate the human figures in his narrative paintings. Formal analysis and Renaissance artistic theories by Alberti and others suggest that Renaissance artists operated under the assumption that how their sitters appeared was tantamount to representing their identities. Current scholarship has not yet considered this particular relationship in Titian's works. Analysis of several of Titian's depictions of female subjects— such as Mary Magdalene, Salome, Callisto, and Ariadne—suggests that while Titian fulfilled Alberti's guidelines for figural narrative depictions, he went further, giving the women in his paintings identities and thus agency. In this way, Titian makes it clear that Alberti's emphasis on the role of figures in a painted narrative does not do enough to give figures identity. By representing these females, not only through flesh, but also with identity, Titian creates paintings that act as equalizers for the female gender during the Renaissance.

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