Famous Painters and Paintings: Titian's Venus of Urbino
About the famous painting Venus of Urbino by Renaissance painter Titian, history of the artwork.
THE PAINTER: TITIAN (c. 1485-1576)
THE PAINTING: The Venus of Urbino. Titian, who loved to paint nude red-headed women--using Titian red--with plump breasts, arms, bottoms, once stated a rule he always followed: "Never paint an old woman under any circumstances." But he was forced to break his rule when the Duchess of Urbino implored the Duke to commission Titian to paint her in the nude.
When approached with the commission, Titian was reluctant. The Duchess was not only advanced in years, but she was "vain and ugly." Then, Titian's friend, Aretino, suggested a workable compromise. According to Muriel Segal in Painted Ladies, "He suggested they might hire from the local brothel Titian's favorite and most seductive girl to pose for the body, sticking on a glamorized portrait of the Duchess for the head. When Her Grace saw the finished picture she was delighted, especially as it was dubbed. The Venus of Urbino, and judged by Vasari as the most beautiful nude that Titian ever painted."
When the Duke of Urbino saw Titian's picture of his wife, he turned to Aretino and said, "If I could have had that girl's body even with my wife's head I'd have been a happier man." Aretino broke into gales of laughter, suffered a stroke, and literally died laughing.
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