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Analysis: Price worth paying for a masterpiece

'Diana and Callisto', acquired for 45 million pounds. Picture: Reuters

'Diana and Callisto', acquired for 45 million pounds. Picture: Reuters

  • by DUNCAN MACMILLAN
 

THIS pair of paintings would have been a tragic loss if separated. This is a picture which Titian regarded as his best.

This painting, these works, are absolutely key in the history of art and influenced and inspired everyone after him including Rembrandt and Picasso.

They are very rich and complex pictures and not just simple mythologies. They have a profound message about human insecurity which makes them so powerful.

Callisto, a nymph has been seduced by Jupiter, disguising himself in an unscrupulous manner as the goddess Diana. The girls are stripping her off, revealing her pregnancy, and she’s being dismissed. The story of innocence pursued without compunction. Diana has no forgiveness. It portrays the nature of fate, how unforgiving it can be.

It was painted in the 16th century but its message also applies to the changing values and insecurities of the 21st century which reward consumerism.

This was the first great psychological painting about feelings and emotions and had never been done like that before.

Titian was exceptional. He had been in Rome and met Michelangelo who had painted The Last Judgement. I believe he then may have thought: “I think I can do better than that.”

Titian’s answer was a very different one – about the reality of life.

It is about nature and humanity in the natural world, very beautiful but quite unforgiving. There is no price you can put on this work.

In recent years our values have been so debased that it is so important money is used to address moral issues rather than commerce.

In global terms £45 million is not a big amount of money. What is it? Half a day in Afghanistan? Half of a fighter plane they are not going to use?

It is important we support such things when our values are under attack.

• Duncan Macmillan is The Scotsman’s art critic

 

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