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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Titian painted the sensuous Girl in a Fur when his career was already substantially developed, and he used the same model for a number of his other works, namely La Bella and Venus of Urbino.

The painting was undertaken between 1536-1538 and resides in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. By this stage Titian was one of the most celebrated artists in Europe and was in demand from Popes, nobility and as the principal painter at the imperial court. This latter position was one of the highest accolades and bestowed great privileges on the artist including wealth and titles. Titian became sought after in many other courts and also became the official painter of Philip II of Spain.

This painting, including the others in which the woman appears, were all commissioned by Francesco Maria della Rovere or his son Guidobaldi. However, this painting and the others ones featuring this model should not be viewed as portraits, as Titian is exploring generic concepts of beauty in different forms which were often influenced by poets of the Renaissance era, such as Petrarch.

The artwork has an erotic quality as the fur slips down the girl's shoulder, and the contrast between her exposed skin and the opulence of the fur and jewels is one that Titian used a number of times. In this depiction there is a certain ambivalence about the girl as her pose and accessories are reminiscent of a Venetian courtesan on one level. Titian is also aware of the charged effect of combining skin and fur, and this technique was one that had been used by Titian's former master, the artist Giorgione, when he painted Laura. For the Renaissance period this painting is more conservative than some, and the colours still show some of the luminous vibrancy of early Titian works even though in subdued hues.

From some of the similarity to Giorgione's painting it can be seen that Titian had retained a certain amount of influence from his former mentor. Another of the slightly conflicting features of the painting concerns the pose which is suggestive of a Venetian courtesan as mentioned above. However, the model simultaneously adopts a typical Venus pudica pose, which is a term to describe a classical way of portraying the unclothed female posture in earlier Western art.

Undertaken somewhere in the middle of Titian's long and illustrious career, this painting is another example of the treatment of figures in his artwork. His style often portrayed sensitivity and a certain vulnerability in his subjects coupled with opulence and extravagance, and this technique was later adopted by other admirers of Titian such as Rubens, Van Dyck and many later artists.