A masterpiece by Titian that commands attention

The “Portrait of Alfonso d’Avalos, Marchese del Vasto, in Armor With a Page” is considered one of Titian’s finest paintings. A much-celebrated recent purchase by the J. Paul Getty Museum -- “among the most important acquisitions the museum has made,” says Scott Schaefer, curator of paintings -- it is the basis for a new single-theme exhibition, “Titian and the Commander: A Renaissance Artist and His Patron,” running Tuesday through Feb. 5 at the Getty Museum.

The 16th century masterpiece, described by Times art critic Christopher Knight as “a slow-burn picture -- the kind of work that literally dawns, like the morning sun peeling back darkness,” will anchor an examination of the partnership between Titian, the much-sought-after official portrait painter of the Venetian Republic, and D’Avalos, governor of Milan and commander general of imperial forces in Italy under Charles V.

It will be paired with Titian’s later portrait, “The Allocution of Alfonso d’Avalos, Marchese del Vasto to His Troops,” on loan from Madrid’s Museo Nacional del Prado for its first-time showing in the U.S. The exhibition reunites the paintings, which hung together some 500 years ago in D’Avalos’ palazzo.


Five books of the period from the special collections of the Getty Research Institute’s library will add context. A third Titian painting, “Penitent Magdalene,” from the Getty’s Renaissance collection, will round out the small-scale exhibition.

Schaefer said that visitors will see that a Renaissance commander of troops “was also an intellectual, a patron of the arts who wrote books himself [and] poetry, and who was mentioned by contemporaries” in the literature of the time.

Related events include lectures and a concert Jan. 21 by the Hilliard Ensemble in a Renaissance program of songs and madrigals.