TIZIANO Vecellio
(b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia)

The Venus of Urbino

before 1538
Oil on canvas, 119 x 165 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The Venus of Urbino was painted for Guidobaldo della Rovere, the heir of Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino. If the pose of this Venus brings to mind that of Giorgione's Sleeping Venus in Dresden (which the young Titian had completed after Giorgione's death) the intent of the painting is quite different. Titian's Venus has nothing to do with Giorgione's idealised image of female beauty, it is normally interpreted as an allegory of marital love. There have been some suggestions that there might be a connection with the wedding of Guidobaldo della Rovere and Giuliana Varano in 1534.

This is an extremely fine composition. It invites us to dwell on more than just the warm, golden figure of this young woman with her cascading curls and the attractive, carefully studied movement of her arm. Observe the way the sheet has been painted, with masterful blends of colour, the small dog lazily curled up asleep, the amusing touch of the two maids rummaging in the chest, the world outside the window, and the malicious, but at the same time ingenious expression of the young Venus. There is an intimacy of this scene of almost domestic simplicity which places the whole composition in a warm, human, temporal reality.