This is easily one of, if not my outright favorite painting. I first saw Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” when I was a teenager and instantly fell in love with her. I feel that this is a very remarkable work because of the unabashed eroticism it portrays.
There is no question as to the incredibly sexual intent of this piece. The screen coving the left side of the background draws a perfect line down the center of the work and points directly to her almost exposed vagina. This is the most obvious straight line in the entire painting. All the other lines are curved Her hand, which is the only thing covering her, indicates that she is about to begin masturbating or that she perhaps already has been pleasuring herself.
Venus stares directly at you with a neutral or perhaps even stoic expression. The fact that she is not only unashamed of her nudity or self stimulation completely makes this piece what it is. She is one of the only Venus’s worthy of the name out of all the other paintings or sculptures of this goddess. This expression immediately puts the viewer into their place, as if you are her subject and she cannot even be bothered to cover herself and she is not even aware that she would be expected to do so. Your intrusion into her chamber hardly requires a glace down at you while she lays on her bed rubbing herself.
The sleeping dog on her bed is also conspicuous. Dogs usually symbolize loyalty and trustworthiness and the fact that her dog is fast asleep implies the opposite of this, at least for now. This is the artists way of implying that she, like the goddess of love, may be quite polyamorous. This interpretation works well with the rest of the piece and I do believe it to be the intention of Titian.
The women on the right in the back of the chamber search in a chest, presumably for Venus’s cloths. They are the tether between our goddess and reality. They bring her down to earth so to speak. While she lays dreaming, they hurry to make their mistress decent. It is also telling that these women are surrounded by straight lines on the walls around them.
The right side of the work is very rigid and orderly while the curtain on the left is ruffled dark and composed of fluid horizontal lines. This is a duality of order versus chaos. The right side is light while the left is dark. It is no coincidence that her face is almost centered on the left portion and that the dog sleeps on the rear right corner of the bed.
The Venus of Urbino is truly a masterpiece by one of the Italian Renaissance’s best masters. This short treatise cannot begin to do proper justice to what I consider to be Titian’s magnum opus.