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The Worship to Venus
Tiziano, Vecellio di Gregorio
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Tiziano, Vecellio di Gregorio

Pieve di Cadore (Belluno, Véneto), 1490 - Venecia, 1576

Miniatura autor

The Worship to Venus

1518 - 1519. Oil on canvas, 172 x 175 cm.

Titian´s first contribution to the Camerino d´Alabastro was prompted by the death in October 1587 of Fra Bartolommeo from whom Alfonso d´Este had commissioned a Worship of Venus one year previously and for which Fra Bartolommeo submitted a sketch. In April 1518, Titian received instructions on the subject matter and format of the work along with a drawing, probably that by Fra Bartolommeo. In October 1519 Titian personally brought his painting to Ferrara.

Inspired by Philostratus (Imagines 1, 6), as Ridolfi already noted in 1648, The Worship of Venus was Titian´s first attempt to recreate an Antique painting (The Rape of Europa would be his last), which probably explains his close adherence to the text, following it down to the smallest compositional and even chromatic details: Look at the cupids gathering apples. Don´t be surprised at how many there are. They are the children of the Nymphs and govern all mortals, and there are many of them because there are many things beloved by man [...] Can you smell something of the fragrance of the garden or has it not reached you? [...] Here there are some avenues of trees with enough space to stroll between them, and a soft lawn bordering the paths, laid out like a bed for anyone who wants to take a sleep on it. Hanging from the tips of the branches, golden, red, and yellow apples invite the whole crowd of cupids to collect them. This ekphrasis continues with an explanation of some of the elements, such as the hare, an animal associated with Venus, who has a certain capacity of erotic persuasion and her chase has come to be a drastic method of winning the love of her favourites, or the mirror, which is part of the offering made by the nymphs to Venus for having made them mothers of the cupids.

Titian retained a number of Fra Bartolommeo´s ideas, such as the inclusion of a statue of Venus as well as the nymphs (mentioned by Philostratus in relation to the painting but not in it), but he abandoned the Florentine artist´s notably axial composition, conceived as a pyramid around the statue. Adhering more closely to the text, Titian situated it beneath an arched rock at one side, shifting the focus of attention from the goddess to the cupids and giving the landscape more emphasis, thus coming closer to the mood of celebration of the fertility of nature suggested by Philostratus. Beyond the logical differences between a Florentine painter with a preference for symmetry and a Venetian one less inclined to it, the changes in the work are probably due to the desire to make it appropriate to its specific location, an issue which preoccupied Titian to judge from his letter to Alfonso of April 1518. The reconstruction of the Camerino in the Titian exhibition (London, 2003) proposed that The Worship of Venus hung on its own on the right wall. This is suggested by the composition, which inclines to that side, the vanishing point in the landscape and the reference to figures and objects located to the right of the painting (probably in an over-door), seen through the gazes of the nymphs, one looking directly and the other through the mirror which she holds up. While this second nymph seems to be inspired by Fra Bartolommeo´s drawing, other figures recall classical sculpture, such as the cupids, which Titian used earlier in the Three Ages of Man of 1512-13 and The Triumph of Faith, engraved in 1517 and derived from classical sculptures now in the Museo Archeologico in Venice. The figure of Venus is based on the so-called Venus Celeste, a version of which belonged to the Patriarch of Aquilea, Giovanni Grimani (1500-1593), and was probably in Venice in the early sixteenth century. Titian used it for the form of the drapery and the way the figure holds it with one hand below her waist.

The present painting was engraved in Rome in 1636 by Giovanni Andrea Podesta with a dedication to Cassiano dal Pozzo. Both The Worship of Venus and The Bacchanal of the Andrians were copied numerous times. Notable copies were those made by Padovanino (Bergamo, Accademia Carrara) and Rubens (Stockholm, Nationalmuseum) (Text drawn from Falomir, M.: Tiziano, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2003, pp. 358-359).


Technical data

Related artworks

The Andrians
Oil on canvas, 1523 - 1526
Inventory number
Tiziano, Vecellio di Gregorio
The Worship to Venus
1518 - 1519
High/Height: 172 cm.; Width: 175 cm.
Royal Collection (New Royal Palace, Madrid, “pieza de tocador”, 1794, nº 40; Royal Palace, Madrid, “habitación del infante don Carlos-quinta pieza”, 1814-1818, s.n.).

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Other inventories +

Inv. Felipe V, Buen Retiro, 1747. Núm. 40.
PINTURAS ENTREGADAS en dichas Casas Arzobispales a don Santiago de Bonavia [...] {11287} 40 / Otro [lienzo] de dos varas en quadro vn juego de niños original del Ticiano en nueve mil reales

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. 40.
Pieza de Tocador / {312} 33 y 40 / Dos [quadros] de dos varas y quarta de largo, y dos de alto: El primero un Bacanal, y el otro multitud de niños en varias aptitudes ô la Fecundidad sobre un Pedestal, á quarenta mil reales cada uno. Ticiano ... 80.000

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. s. n..
Habitacion del Señor Infante Don Carlos [...] Quinta pieza [...] {21846-21847} dos de dos varas y quarta en quadro = Vn bacanal en que hay varias figuras bebiendo con vna figura desnuda en primer termino = y el segundo juguetes de muchisimos niños con otras dos figuras = Ticiano

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 852.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 852.
Tiziano. / 852. Ofrenda a la fecundidad. / a la derecha del espectador se ve el simulacro de la diosa en una hermosa estatua de marmol, a cuyo pie estan dos bellas jovenes haciendole sus ofrendas. El fondo es un vergel cubierto todo de niños en varias actitudes, distribuidos en muchos grupos, y ocupados en juegos, en bailes, en coger frutas y tirarselas unos a otros, en llenar cestos de ellas, etc, etc, (C.L.) / Alto 6 pies, 2 pulg; ancho 6 pies, 3 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 451.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 419.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 419.

Exhibitions +

Goya in Madrid
28.11.2014 - 03.05.2015

Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting
16.10.2006 - 07.01.2007

10.06.2003 - 07.09.2003

19.02.2003 - 18.05.2003

Bacanales por Tiziano y Rubens
17.03.1987 - 17.05.1987

Location +

Room 042 (On Display)

Update date: 15-12-2015 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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