Tarquin and Lucretia (c.1570) by Titian

Tarquin and Lucretia - Titian - c.1570

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Artwork Information

TitleTarquin and Lucretia
Dimensions188.9 x 145.1 cm
Art MovementMannerism (Late Renaissance)
Current LocationFitzwilliam Museum (University of Cambridge), Cambridge, UK

About Tarquin and Lucretia

The artwork “Tarquin and Lucretia” by Titian, dated circa 1570, is a significant history painting executed in oil on canvas. This piece belongs to the Mannerist period of the Late Renaissance and measures 188.9 by 145.1 cm. As part of a series of mythological paintings known as “poesie” created for Philip II between 1553 and 1562, it is currently housed in the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, UK.

“Tarquin and Lucretia” strikingly captures a dramatic scene from ancient history. The artwork portrays the moment when Tarquin, a Roman prince, is about to commit a violent act against Lucretia, a noblewoman. Lucretia’s body is depicted partially draped, her flesh rendered with soft luminosity that contrasts with the dark, ominous background. The stark use of chiaroscuro emphasizes the tension in the scene. Tarquin, clad in a lavish tunic with golden embellishments, is shown with his dagger drawn, an expression of intent on his face. His position over Lucretia is one of dominance and aggression. Lucretia, in response, extends her arms in a futile attempt to defend herself, her countenance marked by fear and desperation.

The composition of the painting, with dynamic poses and intense emotional expressions, is characteristic of the Mannerist style, which often favored complexity and artificiality over the balanced harmony typical of the High Renaissance. The psychological intensity and the visceral depiction of this mythological narrative reflect Titian’s masterful ability to convey complex human emotions and drama through his art.

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