Titian’s Pietà is a personal painting that was meant for his tomb at the Frari basilica in Venice, where he had contributed two of his most renowned works. As an ex voto offering, Titian painted the Pietà when Venice was struck by plague. The painting depicts Mary holding the lifeless body of Jesus, and Titian and his son Orazio are shown praying for deliverance from the plague.
The Pietà was left incomplete at Titian’s death in 1576 and was completed by Palma Giovane. Intended to hang over Titian’s grave, the two stages of painting were to make it fit in two different churches. However, due to various circumstances, the painting ended up in several locations throughout its history before ultimately being moved to its current location at Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice.
The painting is an excellent example of Mannerist art as it breaks from traditional religious depictions with distorted proportions and vibrant colors while maintaining a strong sense of emotion. The combination of Mary’s sorrowful expression with Orazio holding hands together creates a tragic tableau that evokes sympathy; such pain reflected during times troubled by unpredictable cataclysms is strikingly profound till this day.