Many thanks to all those who sent me their reactions to the painting of The Man With The Blue Sleeve. It was fascinating. Here is a summing up of your responses:
- cocky, flirtatious, silky to the touch
- good looking, a bit flirty but in a nice way, on closer inspection disgusted, contemptuous or perhaps hurt, vane, his eyes are different colours
- fanciable, slightly naughty
- cheeky looking, looks like he is up to no good
- supercilious, far too good looking for his own good
- full of revelations which are as yet hidden but not to me (I’m not sure about that but thanks for the thought!)
- one of you had a poster of him hanging on your wall when you were a student which shows a level of good taste and sophistication sadly lacking in myself at that age
- one of you had a mother who had a poster of him hanging in the dining room and apparently he frightened people because they said his eyes followed them around the room and since he was a dead person he must have been a ghost!
So my man has got about a bit. The man is certainly a member of the patrician class in Venice because that sleeve is probably breaking all the sumptuary laws going but he has the money to pay the fine. Titian was only about twenty when he painted him, so he would have been looking for rich patrons to support him and maybe that explains the rather contemptuous look on the man’s face. The Man with the Blue Sleeve at this point in the painter’s life is the one with the power, with the patronage. I think he looks like he’s had a night on the tiles. That eye is very pitted. Interestingly his eyebrows look as if they’ve been plucked. Later on in his career of course it was Titian who had the power and he had princes, popes, doges, kings and emperors queuing up to be painted by him.
It is fascinating and almost impossible, in a time when any one of us can pick up a phone and create an image of ourselves, to think of the power that a portrait had in the 16th century. You had to go to a lot more trouble and have a great deal more money to produce an image of yourself.
What happens in my book is that an actor who is undergoing an emotional crisis goes to visit the portrait and then a conversation ensues …
But you don’t think I’m going to tell you what he says, do you? I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait until January 26th to find out. All I can say is that when The Man with the Blue Sleeve speaks, it will be absolutely … No, I’m not even going to tell you that. But thank you all for taking part!
Do you have a favourite painting? One that you absolutely love. Tell me why.
Photo: courtesy of Letitia Blake 2016