Archive for September, 2008

Titian and his Venetian Venuses Paper Proposal

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Titian and His Venetian Venuses

For my research, I intend to focus on Titian’s paintings of Venus as the representation of female beauty. So many of the artist’s most celebrated and studied works involve depictions of women. As Rona Goffen suggests, “Indeed Titian’s professional investment in paintings of women is so striking that it may be related to his deepest creative impulse”. Why was Titian so often drawn to the representations of Venus? In what ways does this theme showcase his “creative impulses”? How do his depictions of Venus differ from those of the classical past and those of his Italian contemporaries? Titian’s paintings of Venus brilliantly highlight his artistic genius, his understanding and reinterpretation of the Classical tradition, as well as many of the contemporary perceptions of female beauty and the roles of Renaissance women.

Titian painted numerous variations on this theme of the Venus and so the paintings on which my research will center will undoubtedly act as diverse counterpoints to one another. No study of the subject could be complete without addressing the Venus of Urbino, of which I plan to look closely,
perhaps even as the source of comparison to the other depictions. Other works I may include are
Flora, Sacred and Profane Love, Venus with the Mirror, Venus with an Organist and Dog, Venus Anadyomene, and perhaps even La Bella as a possible counterpoint. Is Titian consciously choosing to
depict the female nude differently in each work? Are there shared characteristics amongst all of his
Venuses? Are they to be considered as a thematic group or as individuals? In regards to Titian’s
influences, Giorgione’s (and possibly Titan’s as well) Sleeping Venus will serve as a source of
comparison as will Bellini’s Nude with a Mirror and even classical representations such as Praxitiles’ Aphrodite of Knidos.

A number of art historical approaches are blended into this topic. I plan on using formal analysis as a means of analyzing the choices Titian makes in his portrayals of Venus and the ways in
which they both diverge from and converge upon past traditions. The social and historical context of
renaissance Venice will be incorporated to shed light on the meaning of the works to a contemporary
audience as well as the ways in which the Venuses stand in as representations of (or even as anti-
representations of) women in Venetian society. Thirdly, I plan on using a feminist approach to
explore the issues of any possible misogyny, sexual exploitation/objectification that surround
depictions of female nudes created by male artists. To the extent it is possible, I am interested in
questioning Titian’s own views of women. Is Titian generally being sympathetic to women? Does he
offer insight into their psyches? Or is he more concerned with their physical appearance?

While there has been much research conducted on the subject of Titian’s paintings of Venus (or
simply women as Venus in art in general) there is still much to be gained and many new angles to
address. After all, if an artistic talent as renowned and influential as Titian saw such richness and
meaning in the subject, who are we to second-guess? These portrayals of “Venetian” Venuses may
coquettishly reveal some of their secrets only then to leave their viewers with twice as many

Preliminary Bibliography

Brown, Judith C., and Robert C. Davis. Gender and Society in Renaissance Italy.
London: Longman, 1998.

Cole, Bruce. Titian and Venetian Painting, 1450-1590. Boulder: Westview,

Goffen, Rona ed. Titian’s “Venus of Urbino”. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1

Goffen, Rona. “Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love and Marriage.” In The Expanding
Discourse: Feminism and Art History. eds. Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard, 110-125, New York: Westview Press, 1992.

_____ Titian’s Women. New Haven and London, 1997.

______”The Problematic Patronage of Titian’s Venus of Urbino.” In Journal of Medieval
and Renaissance Studies 24 (1994): 301-21.

Goldfarb, Hilliard T., David Freedberg, and Manuela B. Mena Marqués. Titian and
Rubens: Power, Politics, and Style. Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1998.

Hope, Charles. Titian. New York: Harper and Row, 1980.

Jaffe, David ed. Titian. London: Yale University Press, 2003.

Joannides, Paul. Titian to 1518: The Assumption of Genius. New Haven: Yale University
Press, 2001.

Meilman, Patricia ed. The Cambridge Companion to Titian. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2004.

Pardo, Mary. “Artifice as Seduction in Titian.” In Sexuality and Gender in Early Modern
Europe: Institutions, Texts, Images. ed. James Grantham Turner, 55-89 London: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Pope, Arthur. Titian’s Rape of Europa: A Study of the Composition and the Mode of
Representation in This and Related Paintings. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1960.

Ridolfi, Carlo. The Life of Titian. eds.Julia Conaway Bondanella, Peter Bondanella,
Bruce Cole, and Jody Robin Shiffman, trans. Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996.

Wethey, Harold E. The Paintings of Titian. 3 vols. London: Phaidon, 1969-75.

Wiesner, Merry E. Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe 2nd ed. New York:
Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Preliminary Titian Timeline

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

1510: Plague rampant in Venice

            Giorgione dies in autumn

1515: Giovanni Bellini completes Nude Woman at a Mirror

1516: 29 Novemeber- Giovanni Bellini dies

1525: Titian marries Cecilia

1529: March: Titian at court in Mantua

1538: Titian working on the Venus of Urbino for the Duke of Urbino, Guidobaldo II  1545: September: Titain            stays in Pesaro and Urbino as guest of Guidobaldo II

          9 of November: Titian informs Charles V by letter of his wish to give him a Sleeping Venus

1550: First Edition of Vasari’s Lives published

1553: Begins work on some poesie work for Prince Philip of Spain, including Venus and Adonis

1576: 27 February- Titian writes to Phiip II imploring him to pay his many debts to him

            27 August – Titian dies in his home from the plague 

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Technicolor in Venice - Canale by achamp

Venice Paper Topic

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Titian and his Depictions of Women

I am interested in exploring Titian’s portrayals of female figures focusing mainly on his portraits and history paintings. My research would include aspects of Venetian culture such as fashion, status, wealth and beauty as elements of the artist’s renderings. Essentially the paper would be a way in which to view the lives of Renaissance Venetian women through the exquisite lens of Titian.

Titian's Woman with Mirror