Art and the Double Meaning of Reflection in Titian’s Allegory of Marriage

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Titian's Allegory of Marriage or Allegory of Alfonso d’Avalos (Plate 1) features a small but nonetheless significant detail that may add a new dimension to a painting whose meaning remains ambiguous, as is evident by its title. This detail relates to the crystal orb, which Titian rendered as an opaque, reflective surface, where one can discern a blurred and shadowy reflection of a person with a long, hawklike nose, sunken eyes, and a white collar (Plate 7). This face, which is distorted as it takes on the convex shape of the orb, appears to belong to someone who is standing in front of the painting, beyond its frame. The reflected image conceals what should have been visible behind the orb—the arms of both the woman who is holding it and of the warrior, as can be seen for example in another painting by Titian, the Salvator Mundi in the Hermitage (Figure 7.1). Here Christ's hand and garment are visible beyond the sphere. The shadowy imperceptible reflection of a face may add meaning to the painting and elucidate its significance from the painter's perspective.

Over the centuries, Titian's Allegory has engendered a range of different interpretations. Yet although the crystal orb has been taken into consideration, the reflected image has garnered very little attention from art historians, with the exception of Kristina Herrmann Fiore's mention of a reflected female face.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTitian's Allegory of Marriage
Subtitle of host publicationNew Approaches
EditorsDaniel M. Unger
PublisherAmsterdam University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9789048552160
ISBN (Print)9789463729536
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Publication series

NameVisual and Material Culture, 1300-1700


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