"Circumcision (Homage to Titian)"

48" x 22" oil on panel


"What a deadly dreary day up here. I've been reworking a Titian circumcision - cut a bit more off this time, it's getting really nice & nutty. Also almost done with an Asylum Self Portrait."

From a January 6, 1998 letter to Soren Larson



This painting is based on a Titian Circumcision in the Yale University collection. Many of the figures are similar to the Titian, although the gestures and faces have been changed in Larson's version. Perhaps most different is the baby, reduced to a molten mass of examined sample.

There are a couple of interesting studies that led up to the painting that illustrate Larson's creative range, and show how he would move freely between different styles of drawing to give very different interpretations of the same subject. The first study is similar to the painting above, with a slightly altered grouping of people.

Note the figure of the baby Jesus is quite similar to the Titian, with the same basic gesture. Some of the surrounding figures have been changed, but with the two figures on the right little changed.

Here is another study employing a very different visual language, done probably at same time.

Stylistically it is very different, yet it retains with the Titian the same number of figures, as well as the vertical stripes on the table cloth. In fact all of Larson's images have those curious stripes that Titian employs. In this study the figure of the baby is halfway between having the recognizable form of a baby, and the fleshy mass of the painting. But note what liberties Larson takes with the other figures. They are now grotesque, exaggerated types, but still with carefully rendered psychological facial expressions. The man with the blade looms large in this study, whereas the figure of Mary seems like almost an afterthought. A very different study from the first one.

From here see what Larson did with the second of his two paintings based on Titian's work. This one is very different, in many ways much more 'American' in tone.