Venus and the Lute Player Titian Buy Art Prints Now
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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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Venus and the Lute Player is Titian's long concern culmination with the reclining nude goddess theme. It exists in 2 versions: The one in Fitzwilliam Museum, located in Cambridge, England is more finished.

The canvas in the New York-based Metropolitan Museum of Art remained in the studio, acting as a ricordo, a composition record completely blocked in, but still not complete. After master's death, it may have been one of the pictures that Tintoretto acquired. Eventually, another person (possibly Tintoretto's son Domenico) gave it some finishing touches. The Cambridge picture was in the Emperor Rudolf II collection at Prague, where it's recorded in a 1621 inventory.

The painting is a celebration of love; the object is beauty and the means of expression are music and poetry. The composition offers viewers a pictorial summa of courtship conventions Renaissance. It mixes its extremely cultivated aesthetic controls, nature and art, the real plus the ideal, and its sanctioning its obvious erotic appeal. In the painting, the musician-courtier, who is wearing a fashionable 16th-century attire, is seen serenading his beloved, Venus. A narrative line is extending from left to right, which is especially carried by his fervent brief look in the direction of Venus' head. Crowned by Cupid, Venus gazes up, toward a higher realm.

The painting is hardly an abstract doctrine illustration. In the widest sense, it's a social image, whereby a human action is unfolding in time, articulated as well as measured, as with Titian's work. The part-books are open; in the painting, the courtier is singing a madrigal to the lute accompaniment, and Venus is still holding the recorder she was playing a while ago. Music, spanning future, present and past, is the primary means of expression, which articulates time. Its harmonies are serving as the main unifying medium. The theme of this painting is love. As Aretino, Titian's friend wrote, in respect of women, the knowledge of writing poetry, singing and playing musical instruments is the key that opens their modesty gates.

Also, the painting addresses the viewers directly. The lush nude set frontally, with deliberate artifice, for the delectation of the viewers. Furthermore, the viola da gamba supported as a repoussoir device, which is in the picture's lower right corner and extends beyond the painting's space, is awaiting its player, essentially inviting viewers to join the concert, fully participate in the adoring beauty perception.

Titian pays homage to Neoplatonic theories; he created a Triumph of Love acknowledging the different levels of this power, from the heavenly to the earthly, from divine love to human passion. Marsilio Ficino wrote in his commentary called Plato's Symposium that there are 3 types of beauty. The first one is that of sound, which is heard through the ears. The second one is that of the body, which is seen through the eyes. The last one is that of the soul, which is seen by the mind. Love is often content with ears, the eyes and the mind.