Though this painting presents a mythological allegory, Venus wears a costume and jewelry closely related to the fashion of the time it was painted. The two cupids may represent Eros and Anteros, both sons of Venus, but symbols of contrasting aspects of love—the blind and sensuous, and the clear-sighted and virtuous. In this context, scholars tend to interpret Venus as a deity overseeing marital love and conjugal chastity. This suggests that the work may have been painted or acquired to celebrate a marriage.
At some point after the painting’s completion, its right side was cut away. The disembodied arm in the upper right corner provides a clue of what was depicted there. In addition, the composition corresponds closely to the left side of Titian’s Venus Blindfolding Cupid in the Galleria Borghese, Rome. In the right side of that painting, two nymphs lean in toward Venus and the cupids. An x-radiograph of the Borghese picture has revealed that it was originally intended to have a third figure, between the Venus group on the left and the nymphs on the right. The pose of that central figure (later eliminated by the artist in the Borghese version) corresponds closely to that of the fragmentary figure preserved in the Gallery’s picture.
The composition corresponds closely to the left side of
For the “Elements,” see Provenance, note 1; the Stowe inventories up to 1780 (see Provenance, note 3) describe the picture as “Venus binding the eyes of Cupid, and the Graces offering a Tribute.” By the time of the 1797 inventory, the picture is described rather as “Titian’s mistress (as Venus),” implying that the mutilation took place between these dates. As suggested by Colin Anson (see Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings [Washington, DC, 1979], 1:504, 505–506 n. 4, and correspondence in NGA curatorial files), the picture was probably cut to make room for newly acquired pictures on the same wall. In the 1740 sale of Jervas’s pictures (see Provenance, note 1), the dimensions are given as 5 feet 7 inches by 6 feet 6 inches. Since this height is clearly much greater than that of the Gallery’s picture, it must be that the recorded dimensions include a frame of c. 19 inches (48.3 cm) wide. In that case, the original dimensions of the picture (c. 118.5 cm × c. 175.3 cm) would have been close to those of the Borghese picture (118 cm × 185 cm).
See Paolo Spezzani, in Tiziano: Amor sacro e amor profano, ed. Maria Grazia Bernardini (Milan, 1995), 441.
When at Stowe the painting was considered to be an autograph Titian, and soon after its arrival in America, this traditional attribution was upheld by Wilhelm Suida,
Wilhelm Suida, “Miscellanea Tizianesca,” Arte veneta 6 (1952): 36–38.
Rodolfo Pallucchini, Tiziano: Lezioni di storia dell’arte (Bologna, 1954), 2:113–115; Rodolfo Pallucchini, Tiziano (Florence, 1969), 1:169–170, 180, 310; Rodolfo Pallucchini, Profilo di Tiziano (Florence, 1977), 55.
Paola Della Pergola, Galleria Borghese: I dipinti (Rome, 1955), 1:132; Francesco Valcanover, Tutta la pittura di Tiziano (Milan, 1960), 2:71; Francesco Valcanover, L’opera completa di Tiziano (Milan, 1969), no. 410; Francesco Valcanover, in Le siècle de Titien: L’Âge d’Or de la peinture à Venise (Paris, 1993), 619; Fern Rusk Shapley, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XV–XVI Century (London, 1968), 188–189; Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:503–506; Harold Wethey, The Paintings of Titian (London, 1975), 3:85–86, 207–208.
Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection (Chicago, 1961), 307.
For Mazza, see M. Roy Fisher, Titian’s Assistants during the Later Years, PhD diss., Harvard University, 1958 (New York, 1977), 138–139; Enrico Maria Dal Pozzolo, “La ‘bottega’ di Tiziano: Sistema solare e buco nero,” Studi Tizianeschi 4 (2006): 79–80.
Federico Zeri, “Review of Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools XV–XVI Century by Fern Rusk Shapley,” The Burlington Magazine 111 (1969): 456. For the late Sustris, see Robert Echols, “Tintoretto, Christ at the Sea of Galilee, and the Unknown Later Career of Lambert Sustris,” Venezia Cinquecento 6, no. 12 (1996): 93–149.
Giorgio Tagliaferro, in Le botteghe di Tiziano (Florence, 2009), 239, favors the first interpretation; Nicholas Penny (letter to Peter Humfrey of Nov. 17, 2001, on file) inclines toward the last.
As pointed out by Robert Wald, a close reflection of the original composition of the Gallery’s picture is probably provided by a low-quality, perhaps 18th-century painting in the stores of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Robert Wald, “Titian’s Vienna Danaë: Observations on Execution and Replication in Titian’s Studio,” in Late Titian and the Sensuality of Painting, ed. Sylvia Ferino-Pagden (Venice, 2008), 133 n. 48.
See Entry, note 1, and Provenance, note 1.
The existence of a lost autograph prototype was already hypothesized by Rona Goffen, Titian’s Women (New Haven and London, 1997), 144; and Miguel Falomir, in Tiziano, ed. Miguel Falomir (Madrid, 2003), 265, 402.
The female figure, seen in three-quarter view from the back, turning her head to face the spectator and raising a silver dish above her head, corresponds, for example, to the Salome of c. 1555 (Prado, Madrid); the figure also holding up a container, and with its face seen in sharp foreshortening, reappears in the Vienna version of the Danaë (Kunsthistorisches Museum) and elsewhere. The evolution of Titian’s composition, from the so-called Allegory of Alfonso d’Avalos of c. 1531–1532 (Louvre, Paris) to the Borghese Venus Blindfolding Cupid, is analyzed through their many variants by Kristina Herrmann Fiore, “L’‘Allegoria coniugale’ di Tiziano del Louvre e le derivazioni, connesse con ‘Venere che benda Amore,’” in Tiziano: Amor sacro e amor profano, ed. Maria Grazia Bernardini (Milan, 1995), 411–420; and Jaynie Anderson, in Tiziano: Amor sacro e amor profano, 435–436.
The partly contemporary and courtly character of the costume, together with the more worldly, less classicizing character of her features compared with those of the Borghese picture, led Suida to suppose that the figure was intended as a portrait. In keeping with this supposition, the picture is still entitled Portrait of a Young Lady as Venus Binding the Eyes of Cupid in Shapley’s catalog of 1979.
Wilhelm Suida, “Miscellanea Tizianesca,” Arte veneta 6 (1952): 36–38; Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:503.
Erwin Panofsky, Studies in Iconology (New York, 1939), 165–169; Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance (London, 1958), 76–77; Erwin Panofsky, Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographic (London, 1969), 129–136. These and other interpretations of the Borghese picture have been surveyed by Kristina Herrmann Fiore in Titian, Prince of Painters (Venice, 1990), 343, 346; and most recently by Andrea Bayer, in Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, ed. Andrea Bayer (New Haven and London, 2008), 330–332.
Walter Friedländer, “The Domestication of Cupid,” in Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Art Presented to Anthony Blunt (London, 1967), 51–52.
Rona Goffen, Titian’s Women (New Haven and London, 1997), 144.
See, for example, Kristina Herrmann Fiore, “Venere che benda Amore,” in Tiziano: Amor sacro e amor profano, ed. Maria Grazia Bernardini (Milan, 1995), 389–409; Miguel Falomir, in Tiziano, ed. Miguel Falomir (Madrid, 2003), 264–265, 401–402; Andrea Bayer, in Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, ed. Andrea Bayer (New Haven and London, 2008), 330–332.
Miguel Falomir, in Tiziano, ed. Miguel Falomir (Madrid, 2003), 265, 402, developing a suggestion by Rona Goffen, Titian’s Women (New Haven and London, 1997), 144.
March 21, 2019
Charles Jervas (or Jarvis) [1675?-1739], London; (his sale, at his residence, London, 11-20 March 1739, 8th day, no. 543, as by Titian); purchased by Richard Temple, 1st viscount Cobham [1675-1749], Stowe House, Buckingham; by inheritance to his sister, Hester Temple Grenville, 1st countess Temple [d. 1752], Stowe House; by inheritance to her son, Richard Grenville-Temple, 2nd earl Temple [1711-1779], Stowe House; by inheritance to his nephew, George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st marquess of Buckingham [1753-1813], London and Stowe House; by inheritance to his son, Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 1st duke of Buckingham and Chandos [1776-1839], London, Stowe Park, and Avington Park; by inheritance to his son, Richard Plantagenet Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 2nd duke of Buckingham and Chandos [1797- 1861], (Buckingham and Chandos sale, by Christie's at Stowe House, 15 September 1848, no. 422); purchased by Peter Norton, London, who apparently sold the painting back to the Buckingham and Chandros family; the 2nd duke's son, Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 3rd duke of Buckingham and Chandos [1823-1889], Stowe House; probably by inheritance to his daughter, Mary, 11th baroness Kinloss [1852-1944], Stowe House and Scotland; (Kinloss sale, at Stowe House, 5 July 1921, no. 1697, apparently bought in by the family); probably by inheritance to her daughter, the Hon. Mrs. Thomas Close Smith [1886-1972, née Caroline Mary Elizabeth Morgan-Grenville], Boycott Manor, Buckinghamshire, by 1944. (Count Alessandro Contini Bonacossi [1878-1955], Florence and Rome); sold 1950 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1952 to NGA.
Contini Bonacossi, Alessandro, Count
Grenville, 1st Countess Temple, Hester Temple
Grenville-Temple, 2nd Earl Temple, Richard
Kinloss, Mary, 11th Baroness
Kress Foundation, Samuel H.
Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham, George
Smith, Close, Mrs.
Temple, 1st Viscount Cobham, Richard
Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenvill, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Richard Plantagenet
Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 1st Duke of Buckinham and Chandos, Richard
Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Richard Plantagenet Campbell
- Paintings of Italian Masters from the Collections of U.S.A. Museums, State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad; Pushkin Museum, Moscow; The Kiev Museum of Western and Eastern Art, 1979, no catalogue (organized by the Armand Hammer Foundation, Los Angeles).
- Tiziano Vecellio: Amor Sacro e Amor Profano, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, 1995, no. 146, repro.
The medium-weight, twill canvas has clearly been cut at the right, where there is no sign of the cusping distinctly visible along the other three edges. In addition, fracture damages in the paint indicate that at some time well after the painting was completed, the right edge was folded over to serve as a tacking edge, making the painted dimensions even smaller. At the time of the painting’s last lining, this edge was opened out, and fabric inserts were added to the other three edges to extend them as well. All of the edges were filled and inpainted.
The support was prepared with a thin white ground. The x-radiographs
The painted surface of the disembodied arm is badly abraded, suggesting that it was overpainted when the canvas was cut and was rediscovered during a later restoration. The painting suffers from abrasion and wear overall. The blue paint in much of the sky has degraded,
In 1989, the painting was analyzed with x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) by the NGA Scientific Research department (see report dated August 11, 1989), but the blue pigments in the sky were not included in this analysis.
Peter Humfrey and Joanna Dunn based on the examination report by Mary Bustin
March 21, 2019
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- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 346, repro.
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- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: 1:503-506; 2:pl. 353, as Follower of Titian.
- Fasolo, Ugo. Titian. Florence, 1980: 78.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 396, repro.
- Titian, Prince of Painters. Exh. cat. Palazzo Ducale, Venice; National Gallery of Art, Washington. Venice, 1990: 346.
- Le Siècle de Titien. L’Âge d’Or de la Peinture à Venise. Exh. cat. Grand Palais, Paris, 1993: 619.
- Lloyd, Christopher. Italian Paintings before 1600 in the Art Institute of Chicago. Princeton, 1993: 251.
- Bernardini, Maria Grazia, ed. Tiziano: Amor sacro e amor profane. Exh. cat. Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome. Milan, 1995: 433.
- Goffen, Rona. Titian's Women. New Haven and London, 1997: no. 85, repro.
- Falomir, Miguel, ed. Tiziano. Exh. cat. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2003: 265, 402.
- Ferino-Pagden, Sylvia, ed. Der späte Tizian und die Sinnlichkeit der Malerei. Exh. cat. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice. Vienna, 2007: 249.
- Humfrey, Peter. Titian: The Complete Paintings. Ghent and New York, 2007: 341.
- Bayer, Andrea, ed. Art and Love in Renaissance Italy. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth. New Haven and London, 2008: 331.
- Wald, Robert. "Titian Vienna Danaë. Observations on Execution and Replication in Titian’s Studio.” In Late Titian and the Sensuality of Painting. Edited by Sylvia Ferino-Pagden. Exh. cat. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, 2008: 133 n. 48.
- Ilchman, Frederick, with contributions by Linda Borean et al. Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice. Exh. cat. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Musée du Louvre, Paris. Farnham, 2009: 79.
- Tagliaferro, Giorgio, and Bernard Aikema, with Matteo Mancini and Andrew John. Le botteghe di Tiziano. Florence, 2009: 239.
- Humfrey, Peter, ed. The Reception of Titian in Britain: From Reynolds to Ruskin. Turnhout, 2013: 20.