Titian’s goddess of love and beauty conjures the sense of touch. Observing her flushed cheek, one can almost feel its warmth. The textures of flesh, jewels, fabric, and fur are exquisitely detailed. In the mirror a cupid holds up to her, she appears not to view herself, but perhaps someone gazing at her.
This is considered the finest surviving version of a composition executed in at least 30 variants by Titian and his workshop. It remained in the artist’s possession until his death, more than 20 years after he painted it. The reason Titian retained a painting of such high quality for so long is uncertain, but this Venus may have been a source of inspiration to those who worked for or visited the artist. For members of the workshop, she may have served as a model for replication, and the painting may have prompted visitors to order similar pictures for themselves.
When he painted this work, Titian reused a canvas that once depicted two figures in three-quarter-length view standing side by side. He rotated the canvas 90 degrees, and it appears that he left exposed the jacket of the male figure in the underlying composition to create the luxurious fur-lined red velvet that now wraps around Venus’s hip.