Prague is beautiful when the snow falls, at least for those few days whilst it remains fresh and untrudged. It’s a few years since it lingered long enough for anyone to enjoy, but it was still there and pristine over the weekend when my partner and I took the 22 tram to the castle to visit the Titian and Vanity exhibition.
It’s a small collection (always a relief), put together on a fairly slim pretext – the existence of a few minor Titians in Prague, variations on the theme of a wide-bosomed lady considering her own beauty, a subject that brought Titian and his Warhol-style ‘Factory’ considerable commercial success. There’s also a masterpiece borrowed from the Uffizi, another from Barcelona, and – my favourite painting in the show – a rather intriguing painting of a woman transfixed by her own image in a mirror, to the evident distaste of a man I presume to be her suitor (see above). She’s more interested in her own assessment of her beauty than in his judgement, and she shows no interest in him. He must simply hold up the mirror, as if it’s the only route to her heart.
The exhibition is otherwise propped up by portraits of Titian, some of them self-portraits, and includes copies of Titians, paintings from the school of Titian, and a few engravings I wasn’t patient enough to look at and understand. I don’t mean to sound philistine, but the show didn’t exactly shimmer. It also happened to be the worst-labelled art exhibition I’ve seen in years (one painting was labelled as painted by Titian twenty years after his death), and the English translations were unreadable.
The globalism of the art world, though not new (Titans were brought to Prague even in the sixteenth century) is equalled by the globalism of the café world. As much fun was to be had outside the gallery, in the snow, and in gazing at the Lesser Town’s rooftops from a fabulously well-sited Starbucks, where, as it happens, globalism is celebrated through an intriguing map, which I presume to show the provenance of the cafe’s visitors.
Titians are fewer and further between. The best are to be seen in his hometown of Venice.