Venus of Urbino

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Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538

Titian and Giorgione. Giorgione and Titian. Despite what some may say you cannot know one without the other. For the influence each had on the other defined both careers. Call it bromance or just a stellar friendship, but Titian and Giorgione built each other up. 

As much as we often think of the art world as one of isolation where artists lock themselves in undisclosed chambers until they create the perfect masterpiece. That’s not the case with Titian and many other Renaissance artists. Titian relied on Giorgione to call him out on his perspective and color. Unfortunately Giorgione's young death in 1510 left Titian without his right hand man. A bittersweet moment in Giorgione’s death, Titian no longer faced any prominent rivals in Venice. 

Interestingly enough Titian could've forgotten Giorgione yet as documented in Titian’s Venus of Urbino, Giorgione left a lasting impact on Titian. 

Titian’s Venus of Urbino references Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus. Both painted in the signature style of a woman relaxed but incredibly powerful. Goya and Manet will later imitate this pose in Maja Desnuda and Olympia

Although structured off Sleeping Venus, Titian brings his own flare into his rendition. Immediately one will recognize the color, probably Titian’s most famous legacy, but once you can see past the wispy fleshy tones juxtaposed beautifully with the stark dark background, a story unfolds. 

A story of a woman with a life ahead of year. The Duke of Urbino Guidobaldo II Della Rovere commissioned this piece as wedding present to his wife. Masked beneath Titian’s beautiful pigments one sees our Venus’s life of obligation, motherhood, and complete devotion to her husband. In the undertones of our Venus’s new life it makes sense why critics of the period regarded our Venus as “less a goddess than a woman.” 

Unlike the goddess Venus, Titian hints at Venus of Urbino’s humanity with the dog, a depiction of her fertility, the servant duo in the background which immolates a mother-daughter pair, and her promiscuous posture. 

Titian paints her not as Venus, but a woman subject to all that society demands from her. Her duty to fulfill her obligations. Despite the romanticism of Titian’s talent, our Venus of Urbino is just another pawn in the 16th century game. 

Although take one look into her inviting eyes and you will realize she is more than her obligations. She is in her own right a Renaissance woman. 

Titian could do that, capture the essence of a person.

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