Titianus Redivivus; – or – The Seven-Wise-Men Consulting the New Venetian Oracle – A Scene in ye Academic Grove No.1

James Gillray (1756 - 1815)

Etching and aquatint

2 November 1797
  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road

    James Gillray’s satirical print, titled in Latin Titianus Redivivus (i.e.‘Titian Born Again’), recounts an 18th-century anecdote about Ann Jemima Provis and her father Thomas Provis, who claimed to have ‘rediscovered’ the lost secret of Titian’s painting technique. Claiming to have found a copy of an old manuscript that explained the long-lost methods of Renaissance masters, they managed to convince the President of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds and several other leading members including Benjamin West, Joseph Farrinton, Richard Westall and John Hoppner of this imposture. For 10 guineas, each eager subscriber would get a personal demonstration of the techniques described in the manuscript from Ann Provis, who was a painter herself. 

    Gilray’s elaborate composition is divided in two parts by the arc of a rainbow. At the apex is an eagle surrounded by flames holding triumphantly the ‘lost’ Venetian Manuscript. Ann Provis demonstrates her talent by painting a caricature of Titian with his distinguished beard, while the Three Graces are holding the train of her ragged petticoat. A donkey with the wings of Pegasus kneels before her and drinks from an earthenware pot of paints. In the lower section, the ‘Seven Wise men’ in the first row have already obtained the secret while a huge crowd behind them gathers eagerly to discover the secret. The ghost of Sir Joshua Reynolds emerges from the floor by pushing a stone up.

  • About the artist
    James Gillray was a draughtsman, etcher and engraver of caricatures. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools and learned the technique of stipple engraving from William Wynne Ryland and Francesco Bartolozzi. Gillray produced several notable plates in this medium to his own designs and after paintings by Northcote, while simultaneously establishing himself as a caricaturist. By the end of 1791, all his caricatures were published by Mrs Hannah Humphrey, with whom he lived for the rest of his life. In 1807, his eyesight began to deteriorate and in the same year he had a nervous breakdown. He died at his home in Westminster, aged 58.
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    Materials & Techniques
    etching, aquatint
  • Details
    Titianus Redivivus; – or – The Seven-Wise-Men Consulting the New Venetian Oracle – A Scene in ye Academic Grove No.1
    2 November 1797
    Etching and aquatint
    height: 59.50 cm, width: 45.00 cm
    Transferred from HM Revenue and Customs, 2017
    Bequest of Sir Ernest Clark to the Inland Revenue, 1951 (received 1972); transferred to GAC 2017
    GAC number