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Before us is an absolutely allegorical creation of the painter. To decipher this unusual allegory, you need to pay attention to the inscription in Latin. You can see it at the top of the canvas. Its meaning is as follows: the present must necessarily be based on the past. Only in this case will it not harm the future
Titian portrayed not only himself, but also his son and nephew. Their portraits are one with the heads of three animals: a royal lion, a faithful dog and a lone wolf. In symbolism, this beast with three heads just designated Prudence. It consisted of three significant things: memory, knowledge and experience.
In antiquity, symbols were needed in order to more accurately indicate important concepts. A mature man is rightly likened by a painter to a lion. He has power over everyone. He is the true ruler of this world. The young man is as trusting as the young dog, which carries out its service. Old age is wise, knows life very well, but at the same time is physically weak and lonely. She is akin to a wolf.
During the Renaissance, the works of the philosopher of Ancient Rome Macrobius became very popular. He describes a statue of Serapis. This is the sun god - a real monster with three heads: a lion, a wolf and a dog. This is a kind of Cerberus. But Macrobius interprets this image differently. He says that these are three important aspects of a temporary nature. During the Renaissance, this image is combined with the personification of Prudence, which was also triceps. The result is a single whole.
The artist’s allegory is striking in its complex pictoriality. All boundaries are completely blurred, the themes of religion and mythology are interpreted very subtly at the level of psychology. It seems that this canvas is woven from sweeping brush strokes, which in places are simply rubbed with fingers. Tones complement and interpenetrate. As a result, unity is created. It is from him that paint and form originate.
Henri Matisse Joy of Life