The Beauteous Venus
Padua was not the only location where Titian created beautiful paintings. He created
paintings of oil and canvas to a degree that no one else had at that time in history. Titian created
religious, mythological and portraits more vivid and higher in movement than any of his
predecessors. He found that when his old master, Bellini, died, he was created the official painter to
the Republic of Venice. Reasoning behind this official position was not just his because of his
amazing talent, but also because he had broken free of his masters styling, and had created a style
of his own. The artist’s apparent pleasure in forms in vivacious color against darker backgrounds
endeared him to his people. Then later, with the death of his wife, his mood changed to a more
restrained and meditative style the elevated the style of related color palettes.
Most painters of the Renaissance had been considered working in a type of mechanical
position because they worked with their hands. The Archbishop of Genoa used the words of Carisius
to put their position in perspective, “And then thereto, he said: …, thou art nothing more noble, ne
more mighty than be thy painters.” The un-noble profession of most painters was not that of
Titian, who later did become ennobled. When Titian met Charles V of Bolgna, he painted a portrait
of the ruler that would become one of the most prized, as well as famous, of the king. Titian then
received the title of Court Painter and was given a noble tile of Count Palatine and Knight of the
Golden Spur. All of this was of great value because his paintings became more sought after, and his
prices soared. It was at this time that he painted the painting the Venus of Urbino. Titian was at the
height of his glory at the time of this great commission.
It was the Duke of Urbino that had requested the commission of Titian for a beautiful
nude. The original title of the painting was lost to time. However, the general belief that the title was
merely Nude and was titled later after the Venus De Milo because of the beauty of the subject of the
painting. The addition of Urbino was due to the location of Duke’s palace. The presumption of the
title bears the idea of great, idealized, beauty. The real identity of the painting’s subject has also been
lost to time. Only the fact that the Duke requested a nude painting for his rooms of his palazzo has
Requisitions of art works was a very important form of having a reliable source of income
for the humanist painters of the Renaissance. This was not new, nor was it uncommon. Nor was the
idea of nudity unusual for these painters either. Humanist painters were just as the humanist writers
in that they used their art to glorify God. They also wanted to make their artwork as true to nature
as possible, or even better. They wanted to create a more idealized version of the human form.
While some believed that these paintings should be banished because of they created temptations of
the flesh, others believed that they should not only continue, but were in fact allegorical to God’s
This was the background for Titian and his painting of the nude woman that would later be
described as Venus. Titian had the training of a master that the humanist favored. He painted
religious paintings for the glory of God. And, Titian created the painting of Venus of Urbino where
many other humanist beliefs were included for the viewer to behold. Titian included some of the most
basic ideas of humanist paintings, such as the life-like body, natural scenery, perspective, and had a
strong concern for human interests, as well as interest in the Roman and Greek Empires.
The Venus of Urbino gives these qualities that completely indicated the humanist side of
Titian. The main focus of the painting was the woman, or Venus, who was obviously a lady of means
due to her high quality housing, staff and puppy. The scenery, while not outdoors, showed the natural
side of a noble woman in her own bedchamber. Venus was painted in an open pose, lying on her
bed, with her two servants in the background. All of this was in an open room with a large courtyard
style window that gave a glimpse of the outdoors.
The background of blue sky of either dawn or dusk showed that Titian wanted to give the
impression that the lady could either be lying down to bed, or beginning her day. This would have
been left up to the viewer, which would have been the Duke of Urbino. The tree, which was another
indicator of humanist painting, was just on the other side of the Grecian column of the room’s
window. Titian even painted a little topiary to give the room more elegance, which was another point
of the style of painting.
What was so incredibly real about this art piece, was the wall panels that were painted with
such amazing detail. He also included tile floors of multiple colors. The two servants were dressed in
rich reds, and bright whites that would have indicated that only the very wealthy would have been
able to afford to have such an incredible staff. Who would have wanted to have their maids
dressed in clothing that would have shown soil so easily? Titian even included Venus’ cassone,
which one of the maids was heavily leaning inside. Cassones were beautifully painted chests of the
Renaissance that usually contained the bride’s trousseau. Was a meaning behind this painting
indicative of marital romance? Due to the multiply included cassones, that could be one possibility.
Another factor of romance in this humanistic painting was the inviting pose of Venus. She
was lounging on a rumpled bed. Was this due to her lover? She had blushed somewhat as she
leaned over openly, and inviting the viewer into her realm, and possibly her bed. Her hair was styled
as an ancient goddesses would have been, with long golden hair that also had a crown of braided
tresses atop her head.
She held roses in her right hand, which indicated her fresh beauty and sweetness. With her
head painted a little smaller than the rest of her body, as well as her blush, Titian may have
confessed a type of insecurity with his subject matter. However, he also showed that Venus was
a fertile woman with the shape of her slightly protruding underbelly. Her fecundity was also
indicative of her left hand covering her pubic region. In fact, this seemed to be the true announcement
of this painting. Due to the central position within the painting, her reproductive availability was
positioned at true center.
Venus also gave a clue to her status by having her lap dog at the foot of her bed. A lady of
leisure would have been able to have such a dog, which had no other function except to be cuddled
by its owner. There was a silk velvet drape to portion off her bed from the rest of the chamber. The
numerous pillows, and the multiple layers of linen also reveal wealth of the subject. These were
all part of the humanist painters repertoire.
Humanist painters wanted to include the styles of the ancient world. They wanted to not only
make people more lifelike, but to actually make them into an ideal. The humanist artist studied
behind a master, but also created his own works. He made work ennoble Christ, but he also wanted
to give the painting a sense of elegance. A painter’s background made him who he was, and assisted
with what he painted. But, it was the scene, the subject, and quality of idealized naturalistic life that
made the best of humanist paintings. Titian created the key to Renaissance beautiful art with his
Venus of Urbino.
Originally written for class at American Military University.