Overview

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.

Inscription

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

The artist [c. 1490-1576], Venice; by inheritance to his son, Pomponio Vecellio, Venice;[1] sold 1581 with the 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.

Exhibition History

1979
Venetian Painting: Giovanni Bellini to Early El Greco, Los Angeles Museum of Art, 1979-1980.
1990
Tiziano [NGA title: Titian: Prince of Painters], Palazzo Ducale, Venice; National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1990-1991, no. 51, repro.
1993
Le Siècle de Titien: L'âge d'or de la peinture à Venise, Galeries du Grand Palais, Paris, 1993, no. 178, 586-587, repro. 171, as Vénus à sa toilette.
2002
Nicholas I and the New Hermitage, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2002, unnumbered catalogue.
2002
Tiziano/Rubens. Venus ante el espejo, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 2002-2003, no. 2, repro.
2007
Der späte Tizian und die Sinnlichkeit der Malerei / Tiziano maturo e la sensualità della pittura, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, 2007-2008, no. 2.5 (shown only in Vienna).
2009
Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Musée du Louvre, Paris, 2009-2010, no. 30 (no. 29 in French catalogue), repro.

Bibliography

1909
Wrangell, Baron Nicolas. Les Chefs-d'Oeuvre de la Galérie de Tableaux de l'Hermitage Impérial à St-Pétersbourg. London, 1909: repro. 21.
1935
Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 87, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 88, repro.).
1937
Cortissoz, Royal. An Introduction to the Mellon Collection. Boston, 1937: repro. 8.
1937
Jewell, Edward Alden. "Mellon's Gift." Magazine of Art 30, no. 2 (February 1937): 82.
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 196, no. 34.
1942
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 239, repro. 199.
1946
Favorite Paintings from the National Gallery of Art Washington, D.C.. New York, 1946: 33-35, color repro.
1949
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 38, repro.
1951
Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 84-86, repro.
1952
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 60, color repro.
1956
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 28, color repro.
1957
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 47
1960
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Later Italian Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1960 (Booklet Number Six in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 30, color repro.
1960
The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 26, color repro. 12.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 148, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 129
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:172, color repro.
1966
Walton, William. "Parnassus on Potomac." Art News 65 (March 1966): 38.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 116, repro.
1972
Shapley, Fern Rusk. "Titian's Venus with a Mirror." Studies in the History of Art v.4 (1971-72):93-105, repro.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 344, repro.
1979
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. Washington, 1979: I:476-480, II:pl. 341, 341A,B,C.
1979
Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 39, pl. 24.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 208, no. 253, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 395, repro.
1991
Gingold, Diane J. and Elizabeth A.C. Weil. The Corporate Patron. New York, 1991: 90-91, color repro.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 91, 94, color repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 102, repro.
1993
Echols, Robert. "Titian's Venetian Soffitti: Sources and Transformations." Studies in the History of Art 45 (1993):20.
1995
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. New York, 1995: 706, fig. 18.28.
1997
Goffen, Rona. Titian's Women. 1997: no. 79, repro.
1997
Santore, Cathy. "The Tools of Venus." in Renaissance Studies Vol. 11 Nol 3. The Society for Renaissance Studies, Oxford University Press, 1997: 185, repro. no. 7.
1998
Apostolos-Cappadona, Diana. “Toilet Scenes." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 2:873.
1998
Cheney, Liana de Girolami. "Love and Death." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art, edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 1:523.
1998
Medievalia et Humanistica: Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Culture. [Vol. 25]. Edited by Paul Maurice Clogan. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1998: 58-61, repro. no. 2.
1998
Roberts, Helene E., ed. Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 1:324, 326.
1998
Shefer, Elaine. "Mirror/Reflection." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art, edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 2:602.
2001
Pedrocco, Filippo. Titian: The Complete Paintings. London, 2001: no. 218, repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 100-101, no. 77, color repro.
2009
Odom, Anne, and Wendy R. Salmond, eds. Treasures into Tractors: The Selling of Russia's Cultural Heritage, 1918-1938. Washington, D.C., 2009:
2012
Paglia, Camille. Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars. New York, 2012: 48-51, color repro.
2012
Reist, Inge. "The Classical Tradition: Mythology and Allegory." In Paolo Veronese: A Master and His Workshop in Renaissance Venice, edited by Virginia Brilliant. Exh. cat. Sarasota, 2012. London, 2012: 117, 118, color fig. 43
2013
Frank, Mary Engel. “'Donne attempate': Women of a Certain Age in Sixteenth-Century Venetian Art.” 2 vols. Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 2006: 1:64-106, 303, 305, 306, fig. 46, 67, 77.

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