Titian: Classic Painter and the Hugh Hefner of his Day

History House was one of my favorite sites of all time. It always had interesting takes on historical facts, and serves as a reminder that no matter how much we as society have progressed technologically, we are still basically the same as human beings. For example, we know that at the art museum, there’s always a lot of paintings of naked ladies. Chief among them was Titian. There’s a lot of talk about his techniques and his soft use of light and fleshtones and whatnot.

But what if we he was just painting smut? Here’s an excerpt from the History House article, “The Great Titian“:

Titian’s canvases of statuesque naked women in recumbent poses were regarded as learnedly symbolic by nineteenth century art historians — it was claimed that they were visual explorations of allegories drawn from classical Latin literature. Only recently did contemporary correspondence come to light which showed that these works of art were painted to meet a vigorous demand for bedroom paintings depicting erotic nudes in salacious poses. When Guidobaldo, Duke of Urbino, was negotiating to buy the painting now known as The Venus of Urbino from Titian in 1538, he referred to it simply as a painting of ‘a naked woman’ (and tried to borrow money from his mother Eleonora Gonzaga to pay for it). In 1542, the churchman Cardinal Farnese saw the painting at Guidobaldo’s summer residence and rushed off to commission a similarly erotic nude of his own from Titian in Venice. Reporting back of the progress of the painting some time later, the Papal Nuncio in Venice expressed the view that the Cardinal’s nude, now completed and ready for shipment, made The Venus of Urbino look like a frigid nun. In 1600, in response to a request from an admirer of The Venus of Urbino to acquire a copy, the Duke agreed, on condition that the identity of the owner be kept a secret — he did not wish it to be widely known that he was the owner of that kind of painting.

Sooooo… classic artwork or 16th Century softcore pornography? You be the judge!


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