SLEEPING VENUS, GIORGIONE, 1510, OIL ON CANVAS, GERMÄLDEGALERIE ALTE MEISTER, DRESDEN, GERMANY.
Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus (1510) popularized a specific pose long prevalent in the history of art, the Venus pudica, defined as “an idealized female nude who covers her pubis with her hand.”1 Venus’s hand simultaneously points and covers: viewers are visually directed towards the subject’s pubis, which we are prevented from seeing. This visual cue reduces women to their sexuality. Giorgione’s innovation was to combine the Venus pudica with the reclining nude. Here, the “Venus pudica is couched, literally and metaphorically, in passive terms. Her one act is to draw her hand to her pubis.”2
1. Nanette Salomon, "The Venus Pudia: Uncovering Art History's 'Hidden Agendas' and Pernicious Pedigrees," Generations and Geographies in the Visual Arts: Feminist Readings (1996): 69-87, 70.
2. Ibid., 74.