The major exhibition will bring together Titian’s series of large-scale mythological paintings, known as the poesie, for the first time since 1704.

Titian, 
Rape of Europa, 1562. 
Oil on canvas,
© Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. 

On display from the 16th March 2020, Titian: Love, Desire, Death will concentrate on Titian’s five great works known collectively as poesie. Painted between about 1551 and 1562 the poesie are among the most original visual interpretations of classical myth of the early modern era. 

The series was commissioned by  Philip II of Spain, who gave  Titian an open brief to select his subjects.  The paintings depict stories from classical mythology, mainly taken from the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Because he considered them visual equivalents to poetry, Titian called them his ‘poesie’.

From the original cycle of six paintings, the exhibition will also reunite Danaë (1551–3, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House); Venus and Adonis(1554, Prado, Madrid); Diana and Actaeon (1556-9) and Diana and Callisto (1556-9), jointly owned by the National Gallery and the National Galleries of Scotland; and the newly conserved Rape of Europa (1562) from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.  

Meanwhile, the National Gallery’s own Death of Actaeon (1559-75), originally conceived as part of the series, but only executed much later and never delivered, will also be included.

Following the London exhibition the poesie will travel to the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh (6 July – 27 September 2020), the Prado, Madrid (20 October 2020 – 10 January 2021) and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (11 February – 9 May 2021).

Titian: Love Desire Death will be on display at the National Gallery from the 16th March until the 14th June 2020.