Artibus et Historiae no. 40 (XX)

1999, ISSN 0391-9064

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JÓZEF GRABSKI - "Victoria Amoris": Titian's Venus of Urbino. A Commemorative Allegory of Marital Love

In Renaissance painting the female nude, a frequent subject matter which enjoyed considerable popularity, carries for the most part a positive connotation. A nude figure becomes an attribute, or occasionally, the personification of truth, beauty, geniality, friendship, soul and love. Especially in connection with the subject of love it appears in numerous works of philosophers, poets and artists. Such writers, philosophers and poets as Marsilio Ficino, Jacopo Sannazzaro, Pietro Bembo, Baldassare Castiglione, Pietro Aretino or Lodovico Ariosto nurtured the greatest Renaissance creative talents: Leonardo, Giorgione, Titian, Michelangelo and Veronese. The awareness of the relationship between philosophy, poetry, literature and the visual arts and their mutual influence is important to the analysis of Titian's painting. In his article the author attempts to substantiate that the artist's inspiration in painting the Venus of Urbina stems from the love sonnets of one of the greatest poets of Italian Renaissance, Vittoria Colonna (Victoria Columna), written after the death of her husband Ferdinando Francesco (Ferrante) d'Avalos. The subject is a humanly beau­tiful nude woman whose pose is borrowed from the idealized beauty of the Sleeping Venus by Gorgione. Titian's painting contains numerous symbolically important elements of meaning: 1) white bed linen — purity; 2) crimson bed and 3) red roses — love; 4) fading red roses and 5) fallen rose — death; 6) pattern of black flowers, 7) black enamels of the bracelet, 8) widow's black ring and 9) triangular black spot — mourning; 10) green drapery — hope; 11) pearl — symbol of passing, 'Vanitas'; 12) small dog — marital faithfulness; 13) green myrtle in the jardinière — marital love; 14) column — symbol of virtue of bravery and boldness 'Fortitudo', also the emblem of the house of Colonna; and 15) 'cassoni' — bridal chests as well as other significant elements. In Titian's picture all of these symbols concur in the creation of an allegory of love and at the same time of the philosophical treatise which is a reflection on life, death, love and on the temporary earthly time which should be enjoyed. It is the victory of love over time and temptation, as one finds in the love sonnets by Vittoria Colonna, the 'Victoria Amoris'.

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