Venus Blindfolding Cupid

Venus Blindfolding Cupid is a c.1565 painting by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio). It is oil on canvas painting with 116 x 184 cm dimensions, located in the Room XX of the Borghese Gallery in Rome.

History

Giovan Battista Cavalcaselle identified the subject as Venus Blindfolding Cupid: it had previously been interpreted as the Three Graces, while Lionello Venturi claimed it may have been derived from the Apuleius’s “Golden Ass”. Moreover, there have been various other readings of the work in the course of the 20th century.

Erwin Panofsky believed it was a wedding painting featuring the contrast: in the presence of Venus Verticordia (“Turner of hearts”), between Eros, the blindfold Cupid, and Anti-Eros, the one with his eyes open; the two nymphs, in this context, symbolized Marital Affection and Chasity.

If, however, the woman between the two Cupids were Beauty, she would be accompained by her two sisters, Pleasure and Chasity

Consequently, Edgar Wind identified the figure with the bow as Diana, saying that the picture represented the moment of initiation into love, personified by Venus and embodied in its two aspects of chaste love and blind passion, the latter depicted by the blindfold Cupid.

Analysis

Attended by two female figures, one of whom is holding a bow, the other a quiver with arrows, Venus is winding a ribbon round Cupid’s head. Behind her another Cupid is watching the scene, which, beyond the window, opens onto a vast mountainous landscape.

The warm, mellow colour is typical of Titian’s mature period, prompting Adolfo Venturi to suggest the date of 1565 (Della Pergola, 1955). In the 17th century this style influenced Velázquez, Rubens, van Dyck and Caravaggio.

At some point after the painting’s completion, its right side was cut away. The disembodied arm within the upper right corner gives a clue of what was delineated there. In addition, the composition corresponds closely to the left side of Titian’s Venus Blindfolding Cupid within the Galleria Borghese, Rome. In the right side of that portray, two nymphs incline in toward Venus and the cupids. An x-radiograph of the Borghese picture has uncovered that it was initially aiming to have a third figure, between the Venus group on the left and the nymphs on the right. The posture of that central figure (afterward eliminated by the artist in the Borghese adaptation) corresponds closely to that of the fragmentary figure protected in the Gallery’s picture.

Collection

The painting may be part of Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondrato’s collection bought in 1608: the frame with shell motifs was created in 1613 by Annibale Durante. Anthony van Dyck made studies of the artwork, in a sketchbook now at Chatsworth, during his visit to Italy from 1621 to 1627. There are many replicas of the painting that were recorded by Giovanni Morelli.

Borghese Gallery in Rome,

Author: Titian

Titian

Tiziano Vecelli or Vecellio (1488/90-1576), known in English as Titian, was an Italian painter during the Renaissance, considered the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. Being famous among his contemporaries as "The Sun Amidst Small Stars" (recalling the famous final line of Dante's Paradiso), Titian was one of the most versatile of Italian painters, who worked on portraits landscape backgrounds and mythological and religious subjects. His painting methods, particularly in the application and use of colour, influenced not only other painters of the late Italian Renaissance, but also future generations of Western art.