This is a long book about a long life, a large volume about a large talent. Titian, its titular subject, was the most celebrated painter of his time. He died in his beloved Venice, Italy, on Aug. 27, 1576. The death certificate listed the cause of his demise as fever and age as 103. Like so much else about the artist, however, the date of his birth remains uncertain; it’s more likely he died in his late 80s. Even his name is subject to variation. He signed documents and paintings with “various spellings of his Christian name: Titian, Ticiano, or the Latinized Ticianus or Titianus.” The name by which many scholars know him, Tiziano Vecellio, signals the village close to Venice where he was born (most likely between 1488 and 1490). As his biographer reports, “Venice in 1500 was the wealthiest, most glamorous, most sophisticated, most cosmopolitan, most admired — and most hated — metropolis in Europe, centre of the only empire since ancient Rome to be named after a city rather than a dynasty.”

more from Nicholas Delbanco at the LA Times here.