An Unknown Lady

Titian (c.1490-1576) and followers

This painting (1550-60) is known as “Titian’s Mistress” but we don’t really know the true identity of the model. Titian may have painted this for himself, depicting his own mistress, or painted the mistress of a friend or client or perhaps to show an idealised beautiful woman.

Titian produced a series of beautiful women in the 1530s which are similar in style to the Wellington collection painting.  When the painting was cleaned in 2014 an original signature “TITIANVS” was discovered.

This means that the painting was made in Titian’s studio, rather than by a later follower, but he ran a busy workshop and assistants could have helped him in certain passages such as the hat and drapery which appear flatter.

The condition of the painting is still compromised, it was once converted into an oval which has damaged the paint and it is quite worn. Stylistically, it comes from Titian’s later period c. 1550-60s.

When the painting was X-rayed another composition was discovered underneath. This is not unusual for Titian as he often re-used canvases.

When the X-ray is turned on its side you can see a semi-clothed lady raising her arm to pluck her veil, turning to look at something (or someone). However, it was left unfinished and Titian painted it out and started again.

Tiziano Vecellio, (Titian), is one of the undisputed masters of Western art. He was born in 1490 in Cadore, a Venetian territory in the Dolomites. He was the first Venetian painter to achieve European fame in his lifetime.