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The 16th-century Venetian artist Titian painted what we know today as Venus and Cupid with an Organist. The painting is on display at the Staatliche Museen in Berlin.
The painting known as Venus and Cupid with an Organist dates sometime between 1548 and 1549. It is an oil on canvas painting that measures 115 x 210cm. It shows the figure of a reclining nude, a musician, Cupid and a dog. Looking at the painting, we see Venus’ bed set up against a large open window. The window has a large red drape on the right plus what appears to be a low stone wall. In the background, there is an open landscape with mountains in the distant. The reclining figure of Venus is resting full-length on pillows.
At the end of the bed, an organist is sitting. The organist is believed to be Philip II of Spain. Wearing what is 16th-century dress, the musician has what looks like a sword or dagger at his belt. Although he is not playing, he is sitting with his back to the Goddess. While the organist does have his back to Venus, he has turned his head to look towards her. Venus is gazing to her right, away from the organist and paying him no attention. Her manner appears almost passive as Cupid distracts her. In the bottom right corner of the picture, there is a dog next to the bed. The dog may represent happiness.
Titian's painting follows a single idea, that of Venus and music. However, while there is a single theme, there are five variations known to be Titian. There are other paintings on this theme, but they are thought to be by students in Titian’s workshop. This particular painting is one of the five recognised variations. Each was for a different client. Although based on the same theme, that of the reclining nude, they are all unique. In three of them, the musician is an organist at the feet of Venus. In the other two paintings, he is a lutenist. A dog or Cupid also appear in some of the pictures. Each variation shows a different background.
The painting is an example of Titian’s depiction of the nude female form. Some say that it has a symbolic meaning being the admiration of beauty as seen with the eyes and ears. Unlike the other variations of the painting, this one shows that the organist has stopped playing. He is gazing at Venus in a way that gives significance to the use of sight and sound to evoke meaning. When it comes to Titian’s influence on painting, he is recognised for the impact he had on painters during the late Italian Renaissance period. This is due to the methods used and how he applied and made use of colour in his works.