The pietà by Titian: description and curious facts

Tiziano Vecellio | La Pietà


The theme of the Pietà has been depicted by many artists, but one has always impressed me in a particular way, the Pietà by Titian.
It’s a painting executed by the great Venetian artist who, as required, depicts the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Christ. However, in the work appear other figures, among whom a man who looks desperate and in need of asking for pity, stands out.

In this post I’ll make you discover Titian’s last painting.

The Pietà by Titian

Pietà |Tiziano opere

The painting was executed by Titian for the Cappella di Crocifisso (Chapel of the Crucifix) in the Basilica dei Frari in Venice, the place where Titian had to be buried, but the work remained in his studio until his death.


The brushstrokes of this painting are thick and imprecise.
At the centre of the painting is Mary supporting the dead body of Christ on her legs, while Mary Magdalene on the left is caught in a desperate gesture of grief. But it’s the figure of a half-naked man, who is touching Christ’s arm and seems to send up him a desperate prayer, that attracts the observer’s attention.

That man is Titian who painted himself while demanding the divine intervention.

If you look carefully at the painting you can notice, on the right, a small ex voto picture propped against the base of a sculpture with a lion head depicting Titian and his son Orazio who are praying to the Virgin to be spared from the plague.
The painting is an extreme attempt to ask for piety.
The plague, actually, would kill Titian on August 27th 1576, a month after the death of his son Orazio.


Titian died of plague and his funeral ceremony was conducted in a hurry due to the epidemic sweeping the city of Venice. So, Titian was buried but his painting wasn’t collocated where he wanted to.

It was Palma il Giovane who found the painting in the artist’s studio and finished it, adding the putto-angel who is holding the torch and an inscription in the lower centre.
The Pietà by Titian was his last painting, intended for himself and his tomb, transformed into a gift to receive a grace: the recovery for himself and his son, or more probably the salvation of their soul.   

Today the Pietà by Titian hangs in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice.

Tiziano | la Pietà


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