The mistery of Pala Pesaro


I was about to keep on commenting with Guylty in her blog the striken similitude between Richard Armitage and a knight portrayed in a Titian’s painting but, as the comment would be rather long and articulated I think it deserves a post of its own.

One of my last Christmas’ presents was a very beautiful book about renaissance painters. When I arrived to the chapter dedicated to Titian I gasped like a red fish outside the water observing the so-called “Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro”, also known as “Pala Pesaro”.

Pala Pesaro complete

The “Pala Pesaro” is an altar piece located in Venice, in the “Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari” and was painted by Tititan between 1519 and 1526. The painting was commissioned by Jacopo Pesaro, and it represents the Virgin and the Child, sat in a throne, with Saint Peter at her feet. Two saints are by her side and the commissioner of the painting and his family are portrayed on their knees. The piece is extraordinary: the fabrics, the colours, the painted architecture which is a continuation of the chapel itself. The composition is revolutionary for those times: the Virgin and the Child are in the up right side and the figures are disposed in an unsymmetrical structure, disposed in the shape of a right triangle.

I am sure you are starting to ask yourselves what is the “mistery” about. The only unindentified character of all the painting is, accidentally, our particular object of adoration. As mentioned before, the people on their knees are the commissioner (left side) and his four brothers and a nephew (right) and the friars besides the Virgin Mary are Saint Francis and Saint Anthony of Padua. But let’s focus on the subject of this post:

Pala Pesaro detail

The knight, which is known only as “the captain” or “the soldier”, stands behind the commissioner of the painting, Jacopo Pesaro, and holds the banner of pope Borgia, Alexander VIth. Although Rodrigo Borgia was already dead when Titian painted this work, the presence of his banner is justified by the fact that Alexander VIth named Jacopo Pesaro bishop in 1495, and afterwards, in 1501, pontificate legate and commander of the twenty papal galleys sent to fight the Turks. The battle was a success, represented here by a captive Turk with his head bent, taken prisioner by “our” captain, and the laurel wreath on the top of the banner. Although the weight in the final victory of Pesaro’s galleys were decisive, Venice granted more honours to another commander, his cousin, Benedetto Pesaro. Maybe the Republic failed to concede him the honours he was sure to deserve, but his money compensated the injustice, hiring the best painter in the city to immortalize his victory.

But the question remains: who was the unknown soldier? The captain holding the Borgia banner who looks so much like the captain of this other army of well-wishers, well-read and well-educated ladies? Was RA in another life a neighbour of Titian, a musician who played the cello and the flute around the 1520’s and posed for him as a model? (Which, would explain his declared love for all things Italian) Or was he a soldier under command of Jacopo Pesaro? Or are we in front of an X-Files mistery, formed by time-worms and black holes, worthy of Mulder and Scully? Mistery or not, this painting gives us an idea of how gorgeous our captain looks dressed in a XVIth century armour.


14 thoughts on “The mistery of Pala Pesaro

  1. Love this! Thanks for writing it up and giving us all the extra-information. I still can’t believe the astonishing similarity between the depicted captain and Mr A. Cool! And it takes a real art-lover to actually spot that. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I must look at Renaissance painting again!!!

    1. Thank you for your comment, you’re very kind. The similarity is kind of… freaky, isn’t it? I’m a very skeptical person and believe in almost anything but in cases like this I think, as the Bard said: “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dream’t on in your philosophy”. 🙂

  2. Very interesting similarity! I noticed many times RA’s resemblance (in Robin Hood 3) with Titian’s portraits. It is also a Thorin’s photo whitch reminds me a wood gothic sculpture.

    1. Thank you for your comment! And, like you said in your “top post”, I have the story of this captain in my head, from England to Rome, Ferrara and Venice. I have found a new father to the “Infante Romano” (Lucrezia Borgia’s first born son… whose father was not her husband, Giovanni Sforza). I have imagination but unfortunately I lack discipline.

      1. Well, I must first finish the one I’m writing, then I have to write the captain’s story in Spanish (I write better in my mother tongue) and then someone would have to translate it into English… Therefore it will be written and finished about… 2018. By then the inspiring figure of the story (the one made of flesh and bones) would have children of his own without impregnating Lucrezia Borgia in a fiction. 🙂

      2. Thank you again! Well, I rely on your lack of long-term memory as, excited by the idea, I’ve written a plot that contains a huge spoiler 🙂

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