Venice: The City of Color

Titian was aided in the development of colorito by Venice itself.  The city was one of the most important trade routes in all of Europe at this time. The number of immigrants and merchants coming into the city was immense and created a culture emphasized by the amount of difference. Because Venice was an important base for many different cultures coming together, “the Venetian eye was – in consequence – practiced and discriminated as to pattern, color, quality, and material.”[i] The artists’ influences extended beyond antiquity, the main inspiration for cities like Rome, and were influenced also by the styles coming in from the East. The best example of this combination of styles is on the basilica of San Marco in Venice whose façade was “the collage-like assemblage of ‘borrowed’ fragments” so that Venetians could “[appreciate] the visual complexity of the pastiche” of different cultures.[ii] This amount of information and material coming intoVenice also would give artisans more freedom and more choices in material and style.

Image Credit to Carolyn Higgins

Venice was also the first city to utilize canvas as the base to their paintings. Tied to the fact that Venicewas a ship-building town, canvas brought an additional level to the achievement in oil painting, something that Titian would greatly use to his advantage. It was a relationship between surface and medium that had never been seen before where the “oil paint was either brushed or dragged across it in thin patches to allow texture of the canvas to show through, or else it was applied in thick impasto strokes further to emphasize the surface.”[iii]

Venetian artists focused on one medium for their whole career. This was not the way many artists worked elsewhere, where an artist was not just a painter, but also a sculptor and architect. Not every artist would be working in more than one field but artists who were on a similar level of fame as Titian did seem to experiment in other mediums. Titian worked only briefly with fresco and focused his whole career on the perfection of canvas painting.


[i] Patricia Fortini Brown, Art and Life in Renaissance Venice, (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997), 23.

[ii] Brown, 23.

[iii] Brown, 32.

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