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8-10 typed pages, double spaced of the “Venus of Urbino” By Titian

Topic; Venus of Urbino by Titian

Length: 8-10 typed pages, double spaced (including footnotes or endnotes, but excluding bibliography and image attachments). Don’t forget to number your pages!!

Assignment: Research paper.

In this paper, you will focus on one work of art, using the visual analysis and methodologies discussed during the course.

You are required to inform me of the subject you choose by email ASAP and no later than October 18.

Make sure your paper has a clear structure: 1) an introductory paragraph that includes a clear thesis statement, 2) an extended body with your analyses of the artwork and its contexts, and each paragraph should follow a specific theme, and 3) a conclusion that brings all of your ideas together.

For the research: you must consult a minimum of SIX printed (i.e., non-Web) sources, reference them in your footnotes or endnotes, and list them alphabetically by author on your bibliography (note: you do not have to have read the entire book or article to include it on your bibliography). I highly recommend using three books and three articles. No Wikipedia or “.com” websites!! Oxford Art Online should be your “back-up” source if you have any factual questions. It can be consulted at any of the computers at AUP or by remote from the AUP Library website. I also encourage you to use JSTOR and other on-line databases to locate relevant sources. . FYI: a full-text article you find on JSTOR is considered to be a “printed” source (see above) since it was originally in print.. You are not required to do research in languages other than English, but if you do feel comfortable enough to do research in other languages (such as French or Italian), you are welcome and encouraged to do so.

You must use footnotes, endnotes, or internal citations to cite your sources WITHIN your paper. Whichever format you choose, be consistent! Here are examples of correct footnote or endnote citations for a book and for an article:

Footnotes or endnotes:


Maurice Brock, Bronzino (Paris: Flammarion, 2002), p. 100.

Elizabeth Cropper, “On Beautiful Women, Parmigianino, Petrarchismo, and the Vernacular Style,” Art Bulletin 58 (1976), p. 374-394.

In the bibliography, they should be listed as follows:

Brock, Maurice, Bronzino, Paris: Flammarion, 2002.

Cropper, Elizabeth, “On Beautiful Women, Parmigianino, Petrarchismo, and the Vernacular Style,” Art Bulletin 58 (1976), p. 374-394.

**If you use a museum or other scholarly website in addition to the SIX printed sources, you MUST include the full URL address of the Web site, and the date that you accessed it!**

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or if you have never written a research paper before. If you would like me to read a draft of your paper, please hand it in to me no later than ONE WEEK before the due date.

N.B.: all information that is not direct personal observation or common knowledge MUST be followed by a citation, at the end of the paragraph at the latest. Failure to cite your sources will lead to a significantly lower, and perhaps even a failing grade on the paper!!!!

As some students wanted to pick a thematic subject for their research paper (such as the depiction of children in Florentine painting), I explained that I wanted you to focus on a single work of art, but that you could take a thematic approach by raising a thematic issue in the introduction, and then use comparisons to develop this issue. For instance, you could pick a painting of the Madonna and child with the young John the Baptist, then say in your intro that you will examine the work in the light of the depiction of children in Florentine painting. Then you can compare it to other occurrences of the same subject, and perhaps other images showing children in Florentine painting. Another way to approach your topic would be to raise an issue related to the context of the work you picked.

This is what I have done so far feel free to use it.

For centuries, sexual imagery has permeated art, conveying a society’s norms, an artist’s deviance, or a commentary on the sexual nature of human beings. While depiction of sex or sexuality has often been labeled as taboo by many cultures throughout time, many artists sought to include visual representations of sexuality that were subtle in nature. Revealed by careful dissection of forms like flowers, animals, Greek or Roman allusions, anatomical positions, nudity, or even the gaze of a figure’s eye, sexual imagery tells much about a particular era of history. During the Renaissance, a strong revival of depicting nudes began to pervade Europe as artists sought to draw upon classical depictions in extremely revealing or provocative poses. This era celebrated humanity, including the human body in its bare form, reviving the ways that males and females were conveyed in times of antiquity. Alluding to Greek and Roman art, the Renaissance witnessed a reincarnation of Venus throughout Italy, as Venetian artists like Titian would display images of the goddess of love outside or within domestic landscapes. Still, in many ways the nude not necessarily symbolize sexual freedom; Titian’s images of Venus suggest that women were still in many ways relegated to conventional gender norms thrust upon them by a male-dominated society. A close examination of the sexual, animal, and maternal imagery within Titian’s 1538 painting, Venus of Urbino, demonstrates that despite its very enticing nature, Venus of Urbino served as a reminder to women that to be an ideal wife, they must sexually please their husbands while maintaining loyalty and providing children.

In order to understand the compelling nature of Titian’s painting on a womans ascribed role in Renaissance society, one must first recognize the differences between Titian’s work and that of his former master, Italian Renaissance painter Giorgione. Created nearly twenty-five years prior to Titian’s, Giorgione’s The Sleeping Venus depicts the goddess of love nude in a countryside landscape; like Titian’s work, the nude’s stark paleness creates a bold focal point that highlights the woman’s beauty. In both paintings, Venus holds one hand in her groin, bringing the eyes to the sexual area of a woman’s body. There is little debate that, due to the similar subjects and body positions, that Titian was heavily influenced by his former master, but unlike Giorgione’s work, Titian’s allows the nude to be placed in a domestic setting with her eyes boldly meeting the gaze of viewers. Just as “Titian’s figure appeares in the foreground,” the two artists use Venus to take up “a large part of the entire composition and constitutes its principal element” (Grabski 4). However, the shift in backgrounds of the two paintings demonstrates that there may be far more differences in the two paintings than similarities. As Titian’s Venus of Urbino is filled with “many elements of iconographic significance” which “enhance the conveyance of the intended meaning,” Titian “presents in his work a context based on civilizational and cultural themes” (Grabski 4). This major difference in settings serves as a strong launching point towards the thematic implications of Titian’s nude. Rather than simply portray a nude that alludes to the goddess of love, Titian meticulously places his Venus inside a home. In doing so, he lays a foundation for notions of domesticity that are at the painting’s core; this essentially implores viewers to take the subject’s location into consideration, suggesting that such sexual implications should remain within the home. From there, critics can begin to understand how Venus represents the ideal wife whose suggested place is the domestic realm; a closer look at surrounding symbols Titian utilizes furthers such an image of an ideal wife.

Before recognizing the ways that Titian’s painting relates to domestic expectations of wives, one must first realize how the use of floral symbols in Venus of Urbino reinforce notions of eroticism. At a first glance, it appears that the most obvious floral symbol is the handful of flowers held by Venus; however, it is important to note that “the interiors are not only decorated by living plants (roses, myrtle), but also by flowers created and painted by man on the cassoni, or the stylized pomegranate fruit featured in the hanging fabrics on the walls, or the black flowers scattered on a black net-like pattern on the red couch” (Gradski 17). Rather than simply dwell on the foreground of flowers, a close investigation of Titian’s work indicates that there are flowers everywhere. Many art historians are quick to point out the ways that flowers represent sexual imagery; they often suggest, as in Twentieth Century Theories of Art, that “blossoms and flowers represent the female sexual organs, more particularly, in virginity” (Thompson 141). Though flowers have been used for centuries prior to the Renaissance, often related to the delicate bloom of a woman’s menstruation period, Thompson suggests that the flowers, as used by Titian, are part of a longstanding convention of associating sexuality with floral imagery. Just as flowers bloom, so does a woman who is fertile. Once a month, she menstruates, which was often a means of indicating her ability to provide a fertile womb to carry an offspring in. Such a reference in a painting alludes the ways in which not only wives were expected to be virgins, but they were expected to be fertile and sexually pleasing to their husbands. Due to the fact that Titian was commissioned to paint Venus of Urbino as a gift by Guidobaldo II della Rovere to his wife, it stands to reason that such a painting was a subtle sign of how Titian expected his wife to be: fertile, sexually pleasing, and of course, a virgin.

Drawing upon classical depictions of flowers as a symbol of fertility and its value within a culture, many Roman artists used flowers to depict the purity and fertile nature of women, especially virgins.

However, flowers used with nudes in art have not always created an undertone of female sexuality as it relates to a woman’s fidelity and assumed roles for her husband. Abraham Bosse’s Mandragore, which was created in 1676 over a decade later, also features floral imagery, but unlike Titian’s representation, this combination of flowers and nudes suggests the “dangerous sexuality of the human female by adding human trunk-like and even pubic features to the hairy two-legged root. Within a single plant were brought together the most potent fears preoccupying sixteenth- and seventeenth century Europeans” (Hyde 1). One of those fears was not necessarily that of the plague, but that of female sexuality. Though such a depiction seems to evoke a sense of terror, it does not necessarily stand apart as differently as one might think from some of Titian’s thematic implications of Venus of Urbino. Just as Bosse’s Mandragone indicates that female sexuality is something worthy of inspiring fear, Titian’s painting could be suggesting that women should remain sexually active and maintain sexual appetites for their husbands. An act of infidelity could be related to Bosse’s fear-inducing mandrakes, which could in turn be sending a message warning those in society of being promiscuous. In this manner, female sexuality was indeed something that both artists could have been attempting to restrain, though Titian chose to do so by pointing towards domestic and vowed restraint to a husband and Bosse pointing towards fears of awakening some sort of monstrous result of rampant, unrestrained sexuality.

HYDE, ELIZABETH. “Disorderly Flowers.” Cultivated Power: Flowers, Culture, and Politics in the Reign of Louis XIV, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2005, pp. 1–31. JSTOR,

While Titian’s painting depicts a nude staring directly and provocatively at the viewer, other famous works of art like those by Manet suggest similar, yet distinct uses of the direct gaze in a sexual manner. In Manet’s Olympia, Manet portrays a young woman who looks at the viewer from her pose. In doing so, some critics note that “since Manet did not otherwise explain the provocative situation, his naked (versus nude) young woman appears to be blankly staring at what must be (in euphemistic terms) a ‘gentleman caller’—at least, such was the provocative narrative context of this canvas as it was commonly read by Manet’s contemporaries” (Moffitt). While some will note that Titian’s painting is purely provocative, in its context, the provocation is directed at the potential husband. This is what is deemed to be acceptable expressions of sexuality, since it is within a domestic room and limited to the perceived relationship between the man and his wife. Because the painting was commissioned by _____ as a present for his wife, this makes much sense; Manet’s painting, on the other hand, uses what is called a “naked” rather than “nude” woman to look directly at the viewer from her stature; instead of looking at a husband, she looks at “a gentleman caller” and indicates a type of sexual nature in women that is completely missing from the domestically defined Venus of Urbino.

Moffitt, John F. “PROVOCATIVE FELINITY IN MANET’S ‘OLYMPIA.’” Source: Notes in the History of Art, vol. 14, no. 1, 1994, pp. 21–31. JSTOR, JSTOR,

-paragraph about how the imagery in the painting is not merely sexual, as the dog represents a symbol of fidelity…indicating that this painting was indeed a symbol of marriage (how women needed to be loyal but also have sexual obligations to her husband)

On the right side of the couch, at the feet of the sitter, one sees a small piebald dog, curled up, nestling among the sheets, in itself a symbol of faithfulness, especially of marital faithfulness14 [Fig. 17]. This cuddled lapdog appears to be asleep. For times immemorial and in various cultures sleep symbolized death. Also, of course, during the Renaissanc

-discuss other works that also use symbols of dogs as fidelity (especially in marraige

“ The other figures in the foreground – a man and a small dog – incline toward her; their respective eyes and movements direct the gaze of the viewer. The man to our left is seated at a small pipe organ while the woman reclines to our right. He has turned around sharply to see what effect his musical efforts might be having on the woman as he extends his upper body into her side of the canvas. But she seems unaware of his actions as her eyes rest on the dog who has approached from the front, her hand extended to stroke it. (Eberhart)

Eberhart, Marlene. “Sensing, Time and the Aural Imagination in Titian’s ‘Venus with Organist and Dog.’” Artibus Et Historiae, vol. 33, no. 65, 2012, pp. 79–95. JSTOR, JSTOR,

“Again following the Italian master, Manet places an animal at the foot of the courtesan’s bed. However, instead of letting lie a sleeping white lap dog

—a familiar symbol of marital fidelity, or fides—the modern French painter perversely substitutes an upright, aroused, and spitting black cat.” (Moffitt)

Moffitt, John F. “PROVOCATIVE FELINITY IN MANET’S ‘OLYMPIA.’” Source: Notes in the History of Art, vol. 14, no. 1, 1994, pp. 21–31. JSTOR, JSTOR,

-discuss the child in the background…can you find a source about another work of art that uses children as symbols or references to motherhood?

“ Despite what authors may have said about Monica or Griselda or other exemplary mothers, artists countered their recommendations with images of Mary. If the beholder is, or was, a woman, she is invited to emulate the Virgin Mother in her response to her child. Renaissance women-both brides and nuns-were given dolls of the Christ Child with which to role-play at loving motherhood.7 Renaissance parents were advised to display sacred images in their homes so that their children might be inspired by these examples of virtue.8 Surely paintings of the Madonna and Child were also viewed in part as illustrations of exemplary maternal behavior-what a mother should do, what her child might hope for. Renaissance people might see or hear or read about one example of motherhood, however, but experience another.”

“The truth about Renaissance motherhood and childhood lies instead in the dispatch of”

“But this exception in Mary’s exemplary motherhood-if we may call it so-was exceptional also in art” (Goffen)

“ Simone’s depiction of parental pique and adolescent recalcitrance was not how Italian artists chose to picture Mary’s perfect motherhood or Christ’s perfect childhood. Yet Simone’s mulish teenager, by virtue of his distinctive personality, may be considered an antecedent of the individualized infants represented by Leonardo da Vinci” (Goffen)

Goffen, Rona. “Mary’s Motherhood According to Leonardo and Michelangelo.” Artibus Et Historiae, vol. 20, no. 40, 1999, pp. 35–69. JSTOR, JSTOR,

-tie this up with a paragraph on how such a work serves as a representation of the ideal wife during the Renaissance: a woman who could provide for her husband’s sexual desires, yet remain loyal throughout marriage and able to give her husband a child

“his work, completed in 1538 for the Duke of Urbino Guidobaldo II Della Rovere, is very interesting for its many hidden meanings. It was a gift from the Duke to his young wife. The painting represents the allegory of marriage and was a “teaching” model to Giulia Varano, the young wife of eroticism, fidelity and motherhood.The erotic allegory is evident in the representation of Venus, the goddess of love, as a sensual and delectable woman staring at the viewer who could not ignore her beauty. The light and warm color of her body is in contrast to the dark background, bringing out her eroticism. The dog at the feet of the woman is the symbol of marital fidelity while, in the background, the house maid looking down at the young girl as she rummages in a chest symbolizes motherhood. The strong sensuality of this painting was therefore consistent with its private, domestic purpose, as a gift from husband to wife. The pose of the nude is certainly a tribute to his friend-master Giorgione, who in 1510 had painted a very similar subject, the Sleeping Venus. Thanks to the wise use of color and its contrasts, as well as the subtle meanings and allusions, Titian achieves the goal of representing the perfect Renaissance woman who, just like Venus, becomes the symbol of love, beauty and fertility.

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