(b. 1472, Venezia, d. 1526, Capodistria)

Two Venetian Ladies

c. 1510
Oil on wood, 94 x 64 cm
Museo Correr, Venice

Carpaccio portrays two ladies relaxing in the cool atmosphere of a garden, surrounded by a marble balustrade. The women wearing robes with immodest décolleté are sitting on a terrace where Venetian women usually bleached their hair. Their coiffure was popular in Venice at the beginning of the 16th century: curls combed on the forehead and wig on top of the head.

The older lady is playing with a couple of dogs, while the other leans languidly on the marble balustrade, holding in her right hand a kerchief, perhaps a token of "bonus amor". In front of her, between the parrot and the peacock that the child shows such an interest in, a pair of ladies' shoes of the kind so popular at the time; the pomegranate on the balustrade next to the right-hand dove is a symbolic reference to love and fertility, while the Torella coat-of-arms probably means that the two ladies are members of that Venetian family.

The painting was extremely popular in the 19th century, also because of the title that Ruskin gave it, "The Courtesans".