The Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna openend to the public in 1891. Hans Makart (1840–84) had originally been commissioned to execute the painting for the ceiling as well as fanlight, spandrel, and intercolumnar areas as part of the interior decorations in the main staircase of the new built museum. The contract was signed in February 1881; in the same year an imperial delegation was able to view the artist’s initial sketches. Shortly before his death, Makart had completed the fanlight paintings depicting “classical heroes of painting” and their “favourite materials”. The nude female figure reclining on a bed and the portrait are two themes typical of Titian, from the early Sleeping Venus (around 1508/10; Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister), which was executed together with Giorgione, to the famed Venus of Urbino (1538; Florence Uffizi Galleries) to the diverse variants, Danae (c. 1560/65; KHM, Gemäldegalerie, Inv. No. 90), Venus with the Organ Player (c. 1550; Madrid, Museo del Prado), or the Venus with the Lute Player (c. 1560; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art). Makart’s paraphrase refers in particular to the two last named paintings by Titian: The artist’s effigy was inspired by two late self-portraits (c. 1546/47 [?]; Berlin, Staatliche Museen, Gemäldegalerie, and c. 1562; Madrid, Museo del Prado).
For further Information on the building see: Cäcilia Bischoff, The Kunsthistorisches Museum. History, Architecture, Decoration, Vienna 2010