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Venus with a Mirror

Venus with a Mirror painted by Titian, 1555, canvas, National Gallery of Art at Washington D.C. 63KB

    "`Then look at the picture facing it,' said my friend, without answering my question.

    It was a remarkably good copy of Titian's famous Venus with the Mirror which hangs in the Dresden art gallery.

    `Yes, but what of it?'

    Severin rose and pointed to the furs in which Titian had draped his goddess.

    `She is also Venus in furs,' he said, smiling subtly, `I do not think the venerable Venetian has any ulterior motive; he simply painted the portrait of some distinguished Messalina coldly inspecting her majestic charms, and he was tactful enough to paint Cupid holding the mirror, with some reluctance I might add.  The picture is merely a piece of flattery.  Later some connoisseur of the baroque dubbed the lady `Venus,' and the despot's furs in which Titian's model wrapped herself (more out of fear of catching cold than from modesty) became the symbol of the tyranny and cruelty that are common to beautiful women.  But what does it matter?  As it stands, the painting is a biting satire on modern love: Venus must hide herself in a vast fur lest she catch cold in our abstract northern climate, in the icy realm of Christianity.'

    Severin laughed and lit another cigarette."  (p 149)


La Fornarina

The Fornarina painted by Rafael, approx. 1516 (now thought to have possibly been painted by one of his pupils), Rome Galleria Nazionale. 72KB

"... I interpret the symbolic significance of furs as the attribute of power and beauty.  In ancient times monarchs and noblemen claimed furs as their exclusive right, and great painters used them to adorn their queenly beauties.  Raphael could find no more exquisite frame for the divine figure of La Fornarina, nor Titian for the roselike body of his beloved." (p 178)


images courtesy CGFA- A Virtual Art Museum