Venus of Urbino

Primary artist: Titian · 1477-1576Artist: Etty, William, RA HRSA · 1787-1849Frame maker: Dott, Aitken · 1815-1892

Painted from Titian's original oil painting in situ in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence

vide vouchers 1860, bundle 2 of 3 (65) invoice from Aitken Dott, 16 South St David St; 1858, Dec 31 Two Lawrence pattern gilt frames 17 1/4 x 11 1/8 for pictures by Andrew Wilson 21/- each £2.2/0; 1859, February 14 Richly ornate gilt frame bolted at corners for Group Ariadne at Naxos £9.9/-; To lining Portrait of Rev John Thomson and furnishing ornate gilt frame for do ".12/6d; To a frame for Portrait of R Cooper £1.12/-; To a frame for study by Etty after Veronese £2.2/-; To one do for picture Marriage at Caana £2.2/-; To richly ornamented gilt frame for Portrait of C Stanfield Esq £3.13/-; [1859] March 21, To a frame for picture of the Disobedient Prophet and fitting do £1. 17/-; Slip for inside of frame Professor Wilson 8/6d; To richly ornate gilt frame for picture of Venus with plate glass £12.12/-; To cash paid for silk curtains, [?]rod[?] and fastenings £3.12/6d" gives the following information online for Titian's original oil; This work, completed in 1538 for the Duke of Urbino Guidobaldo II Della Rovere, is very interesting for its many hidden meanings.

It was a gift from the Duke to his young wife. The painting represents the allegory of marriage and was a “teaching” model to Giulia Varano, the young wife of eroticism, fidelity and motherhood.

The evident eroticism of the painting, in fact, reminded the woman of the marital obligations she would have to fulfill to her husband. The erotic allegory is evident in the representation of Venus, the goddess of love, as a sensual and delectable woman staring at the viewer who could not ignore her beauty. The light and warm color of her body is in contrast to the dark background, bringing out her eroticism.

The dog at the feet of the woman is the symbol of marital fidelity while, in the background, the house maid looking down at the young girl as she rummages in a chest symbolizes motherhood.

The strong sensuality of this painting was therefore consistent with its private, domestic purpose, as a gift from husband to wife.

The pose of the nude is certainly a tribute to his friend-master Giorgione, who in 1510 had painted a very similar subject, the Sleeping Venus.

Thanks to the wise use of color and its contrasts, as well as the subtle meanings and allusions, Titian achieves the goal of representing the perfect Renaissance woman who, just like Venus, becomes the symbol of love, beauty and fertility.

For other copies after Titian's original, held in British public collections, vide also; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; 44-1867, for an oil on canvas, 44.4 x 63.5cm, by Godfrey Sykes (1824-66) which was purchased in 1876 AND Leeds City Council [Burton Constable Hall]; LDS344, oil on canvas, 122 x 170cm by Agostino Rosi (b.1727) which was purchased in 1992.