Comparing “Venus of Urbino” and “Sleeping Venus”

Comparing Venus of Urbino Through inspiration from Giorgiones’ Sleeping Venus, Titian a younger contemporary, developed the standard for the female nude, in his Venus of Urbino. Unlike his predecessor, Giorgione, Titian’s painting is one of the first indoor nudes in the renaissance era. The painting portrays a reclining nude in oil, her body softly rounded is unapologetically sensual and her attributes are painted as a commoner instead of a goddess. The compositional aspects of the painting must be noted as well.

Venus’ hand and genitals are placed in the immediate center of the painting, as though she is toying with herself, the sensually explicit painting also displays Venus frankly staring directly at the viewer almost seductively. A dog is placed near her feet; some argue that the dog is a symbol of loyalty. The intention of Titian in his Venus of Urbino is a much-debated topic, whether or not the painting is an allegory for lust or a symbol of faithfulness in marital love is undecided.

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One thing is definite Titian’s Venus of Urbino is a staple of the female nude and it has influenced a multitude of artists. In 1863, Edouard Manet composed Olympia, which was largely inspired by Titian’s Venus of Urbino. This painting was also scandalous just like Venus of Urbino. “Manet’s painting of a nude prostitute and her black maid carrying a bouquet from a client scandalized the public” (781). The combination of both a black maid and a prostitute caused outrage in the French public. Manet’s style and artwork were questioned and he ultimately stopped painting what was accepted at the time.

Olympia, which was a common name for a prostitute in the 19th century is displayed reclining across a bed just like Venus. She stares directly in the viewers eye, not sensually, but uncaringly or undaunted. The paintings composition displays her with her hand hiding her genitals near the center of the portrait, nearly identical to Venus of Urbino. Other similarities include: right hand position, the green curtain coloration, the dark red bed and the use of exactly two pillows. Unlike Titian, Manet places a cat by Olympias feet.

Cats usually represent independence, femininity, but in this case the cat probably represents prostitution. Although Manet’s brush strokes are much rougher then Titian’s the similarity between the two paintings is unmistakable. Throughout the centuries artists have often depicted the female nude. Giorgione did it in 1510 followed by his student Titian in 1538. All the way through to Edouard Manet who practically recreated Urbino with his Olympia in 1863. In the 20th century an avant-garde movement titled cubism surfaced. Pablo Picasso a pioneer of cubism also painted the female nude.

In his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Picasso paints five female prostitutes “in the reception room of a brothel on Avignon Street in Barcelona” (845). Like Manet, Picasso decides to paint prostitutes, (I don’t understand artists fascinations with prostitutes) yet in his painting he abandons any type of perspective or realism and creates what is viewed as innovative piece in the cubist movement. Picasso utilizes sharp angles and a primitive style to render a very strange painting; he explains this as “paint[ing] forms as I think [of] them, not as I see them” (847).

The women, who are depicted to the rightmost part of the painting, seem to be wearing masks this is due to his fascination with African sculpture and primitivism. The most realistic looking women is second from the left in the composition. Her breasts are rounded, not triangular; the only odd aspect is her stance. The way her legs are positioned it looks like she will fall over. Her pose actually makes more sense if she were lying down. If you rotate the image so this woman is lying down the position of her body mirrors that of Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus. (see below pg. ) Intentionally or unintentionally, Picasso has captured the entire legacy of western art. Throughout history the female nude has been recreated in many different styles. Although these styles differ immensely, the influence of both Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus and Titian’s Venus of Urbino must be accredited. Pictures. Giorgione Sleeping Venus 1510 Pablo Picasso (after being rotated to compare to Sleeping Venus Note similar arm and leg position) Demoiselles d’Avignon 1907 Titian Venus of Urbino 1538 Edourd Manet Olympia 1863 Pablo Picasso Demoiselles d’Avignon 1907 Bibliography Art Through the Ages

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Comparing “Venus of Urbino” and “Sleeping Venus”. (2016, Nov 23). Retrieved from