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Getty acquires painting by Titian

The work is 'one of the finest Renaissance portraits in the country,' the museum's director says. It will go on display next week.

November 21, 2003|Suzanne Muchnic | Times Staff Writer

The J. Paul Getty Museum has acquired "Portrait of Alfonso d'Avalos, Marchese del Vasto," a major painting by the Venetian Renaissance master Titian that has been on view at the Louvre for the last decade.

The museum purchased the painting from the Axa Insurance Group, a French company that lent the work to the Paris museum before putting it on the market.

The purchase price was not disclosed, but experts estimated the market value of the painting at $50 million.

Axa bought the Titian from a private collection in the 1980s and later gave the Louvre a 10-year option to buy it. The museum eventually declined the offer because of its already large holding of Titian's work and "other priorities," said Deborah Gribbon, director of the Getty Museum.

Tiziano Vecellio, known as Titian, lived from about 1490 to 1576 and rose to international prominence as the official painter of the Venetian republic, renowned for his skills as a portraitist and an illustrator of classical mythology.

Hailing the acquisition as the greatest portrait in the Getty's collection, Gribbon said that it is "one of the finest Renaissance portraits in the country" and that it ranks in the top echelon of Titian paintings in American museums. It will go on view next week in the museum's North Pavilion and remain there until the end of February, when it will be removed for study and minor conservation. The painting is in excellent condition, she says, but needs to be cleaned and revarnished.

The portrait, painted in 1533, is a half-length depiction of a Neapolitan nobleman, intellectual and art collector, dressed in armor and accompanied by a page who hands him his helmet. Joining portraits by other artists, including Jacopo Pontormo, Sebastiano del Piombo, Rembrandt and Cezanne, the Titian will allow the Getty to provide a complete picture of "noble portraiture" through the ages, Gribbon said.

The Getty acquired one of Titian's major mythological works, "Venus and Adonis," in 1992. A consortium of dealers bought that painting for $13.47 million -- still an auction record for the artist -- at Christie's London in December 1991.

The Getty announced its purchase of "Venus and Adonis" the following June, after securing an export license, but did not reveal the purchase price.

"We now have a wonderful representation of Titian in our small collection," Gribbon said.

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