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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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As one of the geniuses of the Renaissance in Italy, Titian highlights his character and existential meaning through Vanitas featuring the portrait of a beautiful woman.

The first interpretation of Vanitas appears throughout a sequence of paintings held at the Castle Of Prague, the Louvre and the Munich Museum. Although art historians are not sure which one is the first version, it's common belief that the version displayed in the Galleries of the Castle of Prague may be one of the first. It portrays a young woman wearing a white turban as she's handed a mirror. Although the identity of the woman remains unknown, it seems that all paintings feature the same model. The oil painting held at the Museum of Munich dates to 1515 was first displayed in the Gallery of Prague by the emperor Rudolf II. The masterpiece was attributed to different artists such as Francesco Salviati, Palma the Elder, il Pordenone, Giorgione and at the very end to Titian.

Radio examinations have uncovered additional works on parts of the painting, respectively to the mirror. You can see a reflection of jewels and a made which is searching through a case. The idealized beautiful lady was portrayed by Titian in other paintings such as Woman at the Mirror, Flora and Salome. Titian uses large and smooth brush strokes to create the fluidity of the lady's garment which uncovers one of her shoulders. The use of shadows and light throughout the entire painting highlights the details of the lady's appearance and attitude.

Titian creates a contrast between the static posture of the young woman and the dynamics of the scene reflected in the mirror. He brings together two scenes in the same painting in different layers which enhance the dramatic effect of the work. Through multiple layers of oil and wide brush strokes, Titian creates a unique texture to the painting and embraces the reality of the Renaissance period. He reflects a clear hierarchical order between the two characters in the portrait which combined with the lady's attitude, represents the meaning of vanity. As an allegory to vanity, this painting is an expression of Titian's character and lifestyle.

The Vanitas oil painting featuring the young lady with a mirror is 97 cm x 81.2 cm in size and is located at the Munich Museum. However, the Vanitas version portraying the beautiful woman and young man holding a sphere is located at the Louvre Museum in Paris and is 93 cm x 76 cm in size. Both versions date back to 1515 and represent the style of High Renaissance. Vanitas by Titian is a distinct reflection of his artistic persona and illustrates various states of his character. The different versions of the young lady's portrait mirror Titian's vanity in its entirety.