By Catherine Lynne Yellig
Master’s Thesis, University of Cincinnati, 2007
Abstract: This study examines three representations of female nudes by Tiziano Vecellio (Titian, 1485-1576). They include: the Venus of Urbino (1538, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy), Venus with a Mirror (1553, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC), and Danae (1554, Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain). I argue that by reading these three paintings and relating them to courtesans as we come to know them through words and images of the sixteenth-century, one can begin to see the establishment of the cortigiana onesta (honest courtesan) in relation to Titian’s painting. During the Renaissance a female’s identity was not defined by her own individuality, rather a woman was defined by the ideological power structures that governed sixteenth-century Venice. Prostitution was a means to an end, and women who practiced carnal commerce found themselves in a better position if they catered to the desires of the Urban Italian elite. In this study I will try to show how Titian translated the literary and poetic ideals of his contemporaries into painterly representations of the onesta model.