Titian, the great Venetian Renaissance painter, is most renowned for his handing of colour. I touched on this on my recent post on Bacchus and Ariadne. Colour became so important for the Venetian artists due to the cities position as a centre for trade from the East. But Titian does not just use colour to signify the hue but as a tool to help the viewer around the painting.
The painting, Bacchus and Ariadne seems to be divided in two. The left hand side emphasises the cool colours of the sky, the sea and Ariadne’s clothes. This side of the scene focuses on the chance meeting of the two main characters.
To the right is the bacchanalian troop, already noted for their tonal shade but the colours, Titian chooses, are in the warmer spectrum – browns and ochres. Even some of the leaves are browner. Sometimes green pigments turns brown with age but here the colours have been confirmed as ochre.
Titian, however, uses colour to direct you from side to side and around the painting. Note especially the ultramarine dress of the Bachante drawing you from Ariadne and into the world of the god’s drunken troop. See the juxtaposition of cool and warm hues in the dress of the girl on the right and Ariadne’s warm scarf.
The pigments are quite exquisite and seduce you as you stand in front of the painting. Look also for the pigments and a similar division of the painting in Titian’s Albobrandini Madonna from 1432, also in the National Gallery.