Lot 14
  • 14

Workshop of Tiziano Vecellio, called Titian

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
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  • Tiziano Vecellio, called Titian
  • Portrait of Doge Andrea Gritti
  • oil on canvas
  • 33in by 26in
Half length


Giuseppe Longhi, Milan;

Acquired from the above by James Irvine on behalf of Sir William Forbes, 7th Baronet of Pitsligo (1773–1828), of Fettercairn, Kincardineshire, on 19 July 1827, in Milan, for 100 Louis;1

By descent to his son Sir John Stuart Hepburn-Forbes, 8th Baronet of Pitsligo (1804–1866);

By whom offered in the sale of pictures purchased by the late Mr Irvine for the late Sir William Forbes, Bart., London, Rainy, 2 June 1842, lot 25, bought in (incorrectly described as Portrait of the Doge Grimani, purchased at Venice);

By inheritance to his son-in-law Charles Trefusis, 20th Baron Clinton (1834–1904);

Thence by descent to the present owner.


Edinburgh, Scottish Royal Academy, Works of Old Masters and Scottish National Portraits, 1883, no. 187 (as Titian, Head of a Doge);

Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, The Age of Titian, Venetian Renaissance Art from Scottish Collections, 5 August – 5 December 2004, no. 37 (as workshop of Titian).


A. Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813–1912, London 1914, vol. IV, p. 2200, no. 187 (as Titian);

Fettercairn House inventory, 1917 (as 'Head of Doge Grimani'; Drawing Room);

Fettercairn House inventory, 1930 (as 'Doge Grimani of Venice'; Drawing Room);

M. Jaffé, 'Pesaro family portraits: Pordenone, Lotto and Titian', The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXIII, no. 825, December 1971, p. 702, n. 37 (purchased as Titian from Giuseppe Longhi);

P. Humfrey, T. Clifford, A. Weston-Lewis, M. Bury, The Age of Titian, Venetian Renaissance Art from Scottish Collections, exhibition catalogue, Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, 5 August – 5 December 2004, pp. 128–29, cat. no. 37, reproduced in colour (as workshop of Titian);

J. Fletcher, 'The Age of Titian. Edinburgh', under Exhibition Reviews, The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXLVI, no. 1220, November 2004, pp. 778–79 (as a Titian workshop piece);

P. Humfrey, Titian, The Complete Paintings, Ghent 2007, p. 183, no. 130, reproduced in colour (as Titian studio, arguably the finest of the replicas and variants).


The canvas has an old lining which is secure. The paint surface is in good overall condition but very dirty with much engrained old varnish and dirt. It would respond well and brighten substantially with a further, deeper clean (the painting was given a very light surface clean in September 2016). There appear to be two campaigns of restoration- one, a long time ago, from which one can discern restorations in the forehead, some small retouchings around the nose and through the background- and a later more recent one again in the background, especially upper left, and in the cloak where there are a series of small retouchings as there are to a small degree on parts of the face. These have been applied on top of the old, thick varnish so that they fluoresce clearly under UV. Sold in a gilt frame.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The importance of this portrait is threefold: it is a work that encapsulates the identity of a great Renaissance doge, its design is by Venice’s greatest painter and it represents the legacy of Titian’s workshop in the realm of portraiture. Arguably the finest version among the studio replicas and variants, this painting records Titian’s official image of Doge Gritti for the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in the Doge’s Palace, Venice; the original no longer exists since the hall was destroyed by fire in 1577. Carlo Ridolfi in Le maraviglie dell’arte, published in Venice in 1648, mentioned that there were many copies of Titian’s portrait of Gritti and indeed several versions of Titian’s official image exist.2 The appearance of the original, which was conceived as part of a series of double portraits placed high in a frieze above the main narrative cycle in the chamber, can be gleaned from a painted copy attributed to Domenico Tintonretto, which shows Gritti paired with his predecessor Antonio Grimani.3 The painting was acquired in Milan in 1827 by James Irvine on behalf of the present owner's ancestor, Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo.

First published by Humfrey in the catalogue to the Age of Titian exhibition in 2004, this portrait outshines the other workshop versions. Humfrey recognised the possibility of some direct participation by the master in its execution, while at the same time acknowledging the involvement of the workshop. Certain passages lack Titian’s incisive touch and the treatment of the head is flatter and broader than is customary with him, which may in part be due to past cleaning. That said, Humfrey argued that the present portrait corresponds more closely to the late-sixteenth century copy in the Doge’s Palace – and by extension to Titian’s lost original. The sitter’s expression is more animated and his eyes differ from the more remote gaze of the heads in the New York and Kenosha versions discussed below.

The largest of the versions is a painting formerly in the Friedsam Collection, and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, which has been described as a disappointing painting albeit that it boasts a prestigious provenance that can be traced back to the artist’s son Pomponio Vecellio.4 The portrait, which is currently attributed to the workshop of Titian, was perhaps left unfinished and then retouched by an assistant in the studio after the artist’s death. The Metropolitan painting includes the sitter’s right hand and forearm, resulting in a portrait that is closer in format to a half-length.5 The draperies are handled in a more rudimentary manner, suggesting a later date than the Fettercairn portrait. The portrait has been cut down along both sides and at the bottom; its original dimensions were 120 x 100 cm., and it once bore an inscription on a parapet at the lower edge: ANDREAS GRITTI VENETIA[R.] DUX.

A second version is recorded in 1971 in the collection of Margaret Allen Whitaker, Kenosha, Wisconsin.6 Described by Wethey as a Titian workshop piece after the Metropolitan portrait, it differs from the latter principally in the inclusion of more buttons and in the modifications to the patterns of the brocades.7 Albeit that Wethey characterised it as a ‘more precise, somewhat harder rendering’, the drapery itself is painted in a more volumetric manner and succeeds in creating an altogether more convincing representation of folded brocade than the larger New York painting. 

The Fettercairn portrait differs from both of the versions described above in its tonality and a greater degree of finish. It is also closer to a bust-length format and omits the sitter’s right hand, visible in the other two versions. The rich brocaded textile has a tactile quality that is lacking in the workshop replicas. Passages such as the hat, which interweaves intricate shades of cream and gold, or the toggles, for instance, which are painted naturalistically at different angles, are particularly well observed. Overall the combination of gold, cream and red creates a refined effect and the brushwork achieves a more even degree of finish, so that both the head and the more decorative elements appear more unified than in the other versions.

An adroit politician and military tactician, Andrea Gritti (1455–1538) dominated Venetian affairs from 1509. He ruled as doge for a relatively long period, from 1523, the year of his election, until his death in 1538 and during that time proved to be a highly effective leader and a major patron of art and architecture. Besides the most widely diffused image discussed above, Gritti’s features are immortalised in a number of other important works, foremost among them Vincenzo Catena’s Portrait of Doge Andrea Gritti, at the National Gallery, London, and Titian’s Doge Andrea Gritti in the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Catena’s emlematic portrait was probably made soon after Gritti’s election in 1523;8 as such it is the earliest depiction of him. It relies on broad areas of rich colour and strong silhouette to achieve its effects, as does the present work but to very different ends. Catena shows Gritti in profile, reminiscent of a portrait medal. In an entirely different vein is the later portrait in Washington that fully conveys the patrician’s forceful personality.9 Grand and impressive, Gritti’s presence is strongly felt in this expressive painterly portrait. Once owned by Charles I, King of England and later by the Counts Czernin in Vienna, this masterpiece of Titian’s maturity was probably painted posthumously and is datable to about 1546–48. It is also to this decade that Humfrey dates the present portrait, while for Paul Joannides it is a work of the 1550s. We are grateful to them both for their observations about the painting, following first-hand inspection of the original.


1. A receipt in the Fettercairn family papers identifies the work as follows: ‘un Ritratto di un doge di Venezia dipinto da Tiziano’ bought on account by James Irvine for Sir William Forbes from Giuseppe Longhi for 2400 Francs. In the Fettercairn archive the price is listed sometimes in Francs and sometimes as 100 Louis.

2. Annette Weber lists seven paintings in her study on portraits of Venetain doges, first and foremost the portrait at the Metropolitan, from which in her view five of the others derive; the sixth she considers to be a nineteenth-century copy after one of the repetitions. The version in Scotland was not known to her and so omitted from her list; see Venezianische Dogenporträts des 16. Jahrhunderts, Sigmaringen 1993, pp. 122–23.

3. For a reproduction see Humfrey in Edinburgh 2004, p. 128.

4. A. Bayer, ‘Collecting North Italian Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’, A Market for Merchant Princes: Collecting Italian Renaissance Paintings in America, I. Reist (ed.), University Park, Pennsylvania, 2015, p. 94.

5. Oil on canvas, 102.2 x 80.6 cm. (reduced); Acc. No. 32.100.85

6. Oil on canvas, 85 x 66 cm. On the critical history of this version see L. Puppi, 'Iconografia di Andea Gritti', 'Renovatio urbis': Venezia nell’età di Andrea Gritti (1523–1538), M. Tafuri (ed.), Rome 1984, pp. 219, 231, n. 14.

7. H. E. Wethey, The Paintings of Titian, II, The Portraits, London 1971, pp. 109–110, under no. 51, pl. 235.

8. Oil on canvas, 92 x 79 cm.; NG5751.

9. Oil on canvas, 133.6 x 103.2 cm.; 1961.9.45.