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Artwork Review: Sacred and Profane Love by Titian
Posted by Graphica on 10/22/2009 12:32:23 PM (ET)
Filed Under: General
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The exact meaning of the two figures in this painting has been debated for centuries. But the subject of worldly versus divine love, popularized by medieval artists, was certainly a familiar one to Titian. Thus, the two women are usually presumed to symbolize different aspects of the goddess Venus. The figure at left, dressed in sumptuous Renaissance robes, adorned with gold and jewels, and crowned with myrtle, represents the love of worldly things.

Sacred and Profane Love by Titian

Oil on Canvas

The nude Venus, partly covered by a white loin cloth and silhouetted against a flowing red drapery, holds the lamp of Divine Love in her left hand. She seems to be appealing to the aristocratic figure at the left, who ignores her entreaty. The little Cupid between them is engrossed in playing in the water of the well or fountain. The coat of arms on the skillfully painted stonework is that of Niccolo Aurelio, and this elongated canvas may have been painted to celebrate Aurelio’s marriage.

The viewer’s eye moves diagonally from the bent knee of the figure at left to Cupid and towards the extended arm of the other Venus. The brushwork is firm and precise, and the figures are clearly modelled, with particular emphasis on the delicate flesh and lustrous fabrics. The darkened landscape is subordinate to Titian’s sensuous evocation of feminine grace.

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