'A man is a method, a progressive arrangement; a selecting principle, gathering his like unto him wherever he goes.'
(Where the events of history fail in documented consistency, a resort to continuity might be found by considering the more fully developed character of the aged individual.)
The most popular (yet by no means conclusive) interpretation of the Sacred and Profane Love's origin is that it was a gift from one Niccolo Aurelio to his bride Laura Bagarotto. There is no documented evidence of any contract or commission and all conclusions and assumptions are based solely on the existence of the Aurelio coat~of~arms at the front of the fountain.
Fig 1. The Aurelio coat~of~arms: Sacred and Profane Love (Detail)
However the thought that Nicolo Aurelio used his new brides dowry to purchase the Sacred and Profane Love was dashed after the publication of Aurelio's will by the late Rona Goffen. (A very good summary of Aurelio which includes a reproduction of this will can be found here at Dr Frank's blog: Giorgione et al...). At this point then, it appears that Aurelio did not use the Bagarotto dowry to acquire the Sacred and Profane Love.
If as is speculated here, the Night (una nocte & notte) that went missing from the studio of Giorgione and the Sacred and Profane Love, are one and the same painting, there was also a four year period in which the painting was missing, eventually reemerging as the painting endorsed for Aurelio which now included the Aurelio coat~of~arms.
Because of a complete lack of documented evidence, it is as realistic as any other hypothesis to consider whether Aurelio might have used his position as the Secretary to the Council of Ten to achieve leverage in attaining an almost resolved Giorgione, recalling that Aurelio was - as the writer Charles Hope declared:
"...one of the most important civil servants in
..." Hope, C. p.34 Venice
"...in the transcriptions of the documents relating to Giorgione's frescoes on the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, Nicolo Aurelio is always the signatory..."
, p.233. Anderson
The prominent coat~of~arms announces (as it was always intended to do) Aurelio as the ultimate possessor of the Sacred and Profane Love. Historians agree - purely on the basis of that coat~of~arms - that Aurelio must have commissioned the painting, but if so, just how much and in what form of payment such an arrangement was to gain Titian remains unknown to this day. Of the many possibilities that might be propounded regarding Aurelio's acquisition of the Sacred and Profane Love -and if the suggestion that Aurelio could not have afforded this painting is even slightly accurate - one must look to other arrangements to speculate that which may have been of mutual benefit to both Titian and Aurelio.
Aurelio's rise to a position of influence within the fertile culture of Venetian art was no doubt due to the types of patronage systems operating in the
"...He was reproached with his insatiable lust for gain. Reading his bulky correspondence is painful, for he ceaselessly asked his protectors to grant him subsidies, to pay him money and - which comes to the same - grant him privileges and advantages: and he obliged them to keep their promises..." Tietze p.13
'A resolution accepting Titian's offer was carried (10 votes to 6); Bellini protested. In March 1514 the decree was revoked (14 votes to 1) and Titian's assistants were struck off the payroll; Titian protested. In November the revocation was revoked (9votes to 4) and the assistants reappeared on the payroll. It was then reported that three times as much money was spent as need have been, and all arrangements were cancelled. Titian made a new offer, which was accepted in January 1516: he was to have only one assistant. The battle scene was still unfinished in 1537." Bourke, P. pp. 101-102.
- Why, three years after the death of Giorgione, would Bellini desire to deny Titian a particular commission that Bellini himself did not seem to covet?
- What might it be that had so roused the ire of Bellini toward his former pupil?
'In November 1514 Titian was given an undertaking that he would inherit Bellini's senseria if he had not already obtained another in the normal course of events.' Hope. P.38.
Titian's only surety is that he will inherit the position upon Bellini's death, which is simply another way of saying that the one, singular obstacle to Titian's ambition was Bellini. This seems a rivalry 'to the death' and bears the hallmarks of a protracted feud between the two rather than some trifling squabble. After Bellini's death Titian's offer was resubmitted and of course, accepted.
"With an insistence painful to the sensitive, the aged Titian collected money from all sides, and finally, in 1569, he persuaded the Venetian authorities to transfer his senseria - the brokers patent which had been awarded to him more than fifty years before and carried an annual stipend of one hundred ducats as well as sizable tax exemptions - to his devoted son Orazio...".
Had Titian only held the official position for one year he would have made 100 ducats (Giorgione was paid 150 ducats for the entire Fondaco murals -see Giorgione et al). 100 ducats a year over 35 years is of course 3,500.00 ducats (not bad work if you can get it...) and the 'sizeable tax exemptions' continuing over the course of a lifetime should not be overlooked.
Titian positioned himself as the 'rival' to both Giorgione and later to Giovanni Bellini where he believed himself to be the obvious heir apparent to the Bellini senseria. Aurelio was in a position to ultimately guarantee Titian both the position and the senseria. For Titian, youth has no idea know how long life will be and this certainly appears a crime of opportunity as much as it was a crime of deceit and unfortunately offered to one whose cunning and ambitions made that opportunity irresistible. Titian's ambitious traits in league with his tedious penny-pinching and fondness for arrangements-other-than-cash display the avaristic character that will always be associated with the aged Titian, and one can infer from his impatience surrounding the trials with Bellini and the Council of Ten that he was even in youth, Titian was ever hungry to secure his side of the bargain.
Could it be that in old age Titian's character actually reflects the younger man? For as well as being an astute and ambitious talent, his maturity suggests the character of a sociopath; a fiscal omnivore whose appetite for social and pecuniary advantage appear to have been insatiate.
Johannes Wilde's posthumous notes (Venetian Art from Bellini to Titian Oxford University Press 1974) tells the tale of Titian in his last years: There was a young pupil living in Titian's house, and Wilde cites a report written by an Art dealer from Venice:
"...his name is Emmanuel; he is a German... he is quite excellent; and Titian just touches up his works, which he then sells as being of his own hand, [my italics] cheating wherever he can." p.220
Titian, now more than eighty years old can barely see the canvas let alone paint due to a shaky hand, and this claims the dealer, was known to all Venice. Titian's all-consuming drive for gain mark his character well into old age and so perhaps reveals ambitions and conceits that were very likely present in his youth.
Aurelio had conspired to remove the painting from the studio of the late Giorgione, Titian was certainly compliant with the situation and obviously willing to authenticate the Sacred and Profane Love with the Aurelio coat~of~arms.
It is also not unreasonable to suggest that Aurelio would have had the support of numbers within the council willing to wrench the work from (possibly) Alfonso's grasp - albeit to Aurelio's own advantage. Why?
At the time there was a hatred of Alfonso and his association with the league of Cambrai who had been at war with Venice. Strangely, Bertuccio Bagarotto the father of Aurelio's bride Laura Bagarotto, was publicly hanged (wrongly and later exonerated) in front of Laura for suspected treason with the league. Was the Council wielding its retaliatory power in a hate driven pogrom against possible and even imagined traitors and why had they wronged the Bagarotto family?
Now there is motivation for a the son of a humanist (Aurelio) to right a wrong; recalling that the Bagarotto dowry (2000 ducats) was only restored to Laura the day before her wedding to Aurelio. Are we to believe that Aurelio was so convinced of both the wedding and the painting that this unlikely and very doubtful deal was Aurelio's pathway to gaining the Sacred and Profane Love? It seems absurd so why hasn't it been called as such? What part did Aurelio's influence play in Laura's restoration? There is still far more here than meets the eye.
There are several reasons why the Sacred and Profane Love qualifies as the night. It will be argued that the painting is Ferranese in character; it is 'mens business' in that it was painted for a man and not a woman. Furthermore the Sacred and Profane Love is precisely the sort of work that distinguishes the deep seated nobility, wisdom and responsibility of a cultural elite from those that were merely wealthy and socially advantaged. We must also be prepared to acknowledge an idea by Giles Robertson - that Bagarotto may have had some involvement with the Sacred and Profane Love's programme - if so how could this have been intended to play out? Did Bagarotto haveany connection to Ferrara, Duke Alfonso, and/or Isabella?
The child (Cupid/Mercury/Hermes) of the Sacred and Profane Love returns to Giorgione as the iconological source; now to discover the prototype of this child, we must turn to the meaning of the murals on the Fondaco dei Tedeschi.
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