Titian’s Venus of Urbino, completed in 1538 for the Duke of Urbino Guidobaldo II Della Rovere, and is derived from a work by Giorgione, the Sleeping Venus, painted in 1510. Both of these artists had been apprenticed to the studios of Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, and indeed the Bellini workshop produced a similar reclining nude, Cupid Rouses the Sleeping Venus to her Duties. So the progression from Bellini to Giorgione and finally to Titian is established.
Titian’s Venus is an exercise in female eroticism. In a departure from the earlier works by Bellini and Giorgione, the youthful female figure stares directly at the viewer. She holds what looks like a morning-after gift in the form of a bouquet of flowers; her left hand is placed suggestively between her thighs. The Goddess of Love has never appeared more human, the contrast between her warm body colours and the dark background starkly accentuating her sensuality.
The dog at her feet symbolises marital fidelity while a maid in the background (symbolising motherhood) looks at a girl who kneels before a chest. The painting was intended as a teaching model for the Duke’s young wife Giulia Varano and was intended to serve as a reminder of her marital obligations.
Giorgione’s Venus reclines in a landscape of rolling hills that follow the contours of her body. Unlike Titian’s full-on erotic version, she sleeps and her sensuality is displayed in a much more subtle fashion than the Urbino Venus. This painting was unfinished at Giorgione’s death and was completed by Titian.
Like the Giorgione version, this Bellini workshop Venus (undated) also sleeps in the landscaped backdrop. She is about to be awakened by Cupid pulling on her hair in an attempt to rouse the Goddess to her daily duties.
The View from the window, a delightfully simple example of Titian's painting.