VENUS OF URBINO
VENUS OF URBINO, TITIAN, 1538, OIL ON CANVAS, GALLERIA DEGLI UFFIZI, FLORENCE, ITALY
Titian brings us into the Renaissance via the pearly flesh and moral codes of his Venus of Urbino (1538). The Venus pudica is present again here, expressing virginity, chastity, and fidelity; these are represented both in her pose and the symbolic presence of the dog. She coyly makes eye contact with the viewer in a come-hither, non-threatening way. The subject’s reclining body positions her as an object, existing to be “passively framed and erotically enjoyed by the (male) artist and (male) viewer; within this scenario the male, as viewer or artist, stands as the active subject.”1 This power dynamic, expressed by almost physically engaging the (once again, male) viewer, embodies a visual rhetoric that would continue to define Western art for hundreds of years. Lisa Tickner wrote in 1978, “living in a female body is different from looking at it, as a man. Even the Venus of Urbino menstruated, as women know and men forget.”2
1. Alyce Mahon, Eroticism and Art, Oxford UP, 2007, 41.
2. Lisa Tickner, The Body Politic: Female Sexuality and Woman Artists since 1970, (1978), 239.