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

Woman with a Mirror

c. 1514
Oil on canvas, 93 x 76 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Titian's early series of female portraits are one of the glories of the Venetian Renaissance. Depicted with loving care, his sitters - however idealized in the final composition - are too full of life and character not to have been taken from the model.

The Woman with a Mirror is probably among the earliest of these works: in comparison to others in the series, she is seen from a more frontal angle behind the parapet and in terms of atmosphere appears less integrated within the ambient space. She stands between two mirrors held up by an admirer in such a way that she can see herself and her admirer and we can see her from both front and back. This arrangement refers to the claims of painting to surpass sculpture, by presenting an all-round view with colour as a bonus. Her expression has little to do with vanity, a common gloss on images of women before a mirror, and shows an unaffected and dawning delight in her own attractions which the viewer, like her admirer, is expected to share. Thus the picture is a celebration of her beauty, enhanced by the possibility of its being admired from different aspects by all concerned - herself, her lover and the spectator.