At the core of Renaissance art is the revival of the classical past, and in his Venus with a Mirror, Titian revealed both his appreciation of antiquity and his remarkable modernity. During a sojourn in Rome he wrote that he was "learning from the marvelous ancient stones" that were being unearthed daily in the city. Indeed, he based the gesture of the goddess, her hands held to her breast and lap, on a famous Roman statue of Venus that later belonged to the Medici.

Yet Titian breathed a warmth and life into the remote source to conjure a startlingly immediate and sensual modern Venus. Her pliant flesh seems to melt at the touch of the cupid who strains to bestow on her the crown of love. While she pulls about her a wine–colored velvet wrap lined in fur, soft, opulent, and evoking the sense of touch, Venus reveals her body as much as she conceals it. The beautiful woman gazing at her reflection is a favorite theme of Renaissance love poetry in which the writer envies the fortunate mirror that enjoys his lady's splendid image.


  • Title: Venus with a Mirror
  • Date Created: c. 1555
  • Physical Dimensions: w1055 x h1245 cm (overall)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Andrew W. Mellon Collection
  • External Link: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Theme: mythology, classical
  • School: Venetian
  • Provenance: The artist [c. 1490 1576], Venice; by inheritance to his son, Pomponio Vecellio, Venice;[1] sold 1581 with contents of Titian's house to Cristoforo Barbarigo, Venice; by inheritance to his son, Andrea Barbarigo; by inheritance in the Barbarigo family, Venice;[2] sold c. 1850 to Czar Nicholas I of Russia [d. 1855], Saint Petersburg; Imperial Hermitage Gallery, St. Petersburg;[3] purchased April 1931 through (Matthiesen Gallery, Berlin; P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London; and M. Knoedler & Co., New York) by Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 5 June 1931 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh;[4] gift 1937 to NGA. [1] G. Cardorin, Dello Amore ai veneziani di Tiziano Vecellio delle sue case in Cadore e in Venezia, Venice, 1833, p. 77, 98. [2] C. G. Bevilacqua, Insigne pinacoteca della nobile veneta famiglia Barbarigo della Terrazza, Venice, 1845, p. 65. [3] According to E. Bruiningk and A. Somoff, Catalogue de la Galerie des Tableaux, Volume I, Saint Petersburg, 1891, p.161 162. [4] Mellon/Mellon Trust purchase date and/or date deeded to Mellon Trust is according to Mellon collection files in NGA curatorial records and David Finley's notebook (donated to the National Gallery of Art in 1977, now in the Gallery Archives).
  • Artist: Titian

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