Titian’s Venus and the Lutenist

Titian, Venus and the Lutenist Titian’s Venus and the Lutenist depicts Venus laying in a courtly setting set on a larger pastoral landscape. The intertwining of both courtly and pastoral is common in the high Renaissance and appropriate for the painting as Venus is the queen of love, beauty, and nature. The painting was very possibly a wedding gift to a nobleman or ruler, and the theme of marriage is reflected in Venus’ ring and the wreath of flowers that Cupid places above her head. Trademarks of the courtly, such as jewelry and sumptuous clothing, are inscribed with pastoral features.

Indeed, Venus is set upon a pastoral and natural landscape because “there is none among [living things] which has not been derived from love as from its first and most reverend father. ” (Bembo, Gli Asolani) By setting her indoors, laying on luxurious fabrics, Titian glorifies and places a higher value on Venus. It seems to set a hierarchy where she is at the top, and nature and humanity are underneath. She lays beside a nobleman playing the lute, which is in itself a courtly instrument and he is gazing at her in admiration.

By portraying the nobleman as young, Titian gives Venus an almost maternal quality, playing on the idea that she is the mother of all things (she is occasionally compared to Mary. ) She is also set apart from the scene in the background by the difference in the activities being performed by the figures. In the background can be seen nymphs and satyrs dancing freely, in contrast to the higher, more civilized Venus in the foreground. Titian resolves contradictory values of the sixteenth century by ennobling and glorifying a figure of great sexuality and underlining Venus’ influence on all of nature through the larger pastoral landscape.

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