The Rokeby Venus: Velázquez’s only surviving nude | The National Gallery

The Rokeby Venus: Velázquez’s only surviving nude | The National Gallery


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It’s so nice to see
so many of you here this lunchtime for today’s talk. My name is Francesca,
I’m the Associate Curator for paintings made between
1600 and 1800 here at the Gallery, so this is one of the paintings
I help look after. It’s one of my favourite paintings
in the collection and I’m thrilled to be talking about it
to you all today. You are very numerous today,
a lot of people, which is lovely, but if at any point you’re standing
at the back and you can’t hear me or at the front and can’t hear me, do a wave and I’ll do my best
to shout a little bit louder. When I was thinking about preparing
today’s talk, it occurred to me that I think sometimes
we get into a rhythm here at the Gallery where we start our talks with facts, so it’s quite easy to stand up
in front of a painting and say, this is the artist,
this is the subject, it’s a painting of this,
made on this date, and bombard you with information
from the get-go about that facts-and-figures
type of history. And for this painting,
which you’ll notice I’ve not named yet, I wanted to start with questions rather than with answers, because I think this is
one of the most enigmatic, one of the most provocative,
one of the most mysterious paintings in our collection here
at the National Gallery. And so I think it bears
asking these questions: What is this a painting of? What are we looking at? Who is this? What is it that we are meant
to think or feel when we’re standing, or sitting,
in front of this painting? I don’t think there are fixed answers
to these questions, but I thought to get us
really looking at the picture, I might just talk you through
what it is that I see when I come and stand
in front of this painting. The first thing I notice
when I stand in this gallery and look at this picture
is that I’m looking at a woman lying on some kind of couch
or some kind of bed. And for me,
when I come and look at this painting, the bit of it that always catches my eye,
the bit that my eye is always drawn to, is just here, this area where
you have the silhouette of the hip against that very, very bright
white bedsheet. You’ve got the whiteness of the sheet, you’ve got the highlight
of the light hitting that hip, and for me that really
always draws me eye, right in the centre of the painting,
that’s what I see first. And when I look at that, I’m reminded
of two really important things. One, that this is a painting
of a naked woman. And two, that I’m looking at this woman
from behind, which is pretty unusual, because even if we think
about erotic images today, normally we look
at something more explicit, a bit more front-on, a bit more… …people are facing us
in that kind of painting, so those are two really crucial things. Having looked at this central area where
we get this amazing silhouette of the hip, my eye tends to be drawn down
towards the woman’s legs and then back up along her spine, and I think this is a painting
that really is in many ways a kind of exercise in curves,
and that’s what my eye seems to pick out, following the undulating rhythms
of this body, this curve, this very sinuous curve
of the spine. When I follow that line,
what strikes me again is this idea that I’m looking
at this woman from behind. So in some ways, what I’m being seduced by
is not necessarily what I’m looking at, but it’s what I’m imagining,
that’s really key for this picture, we’re not looking at this woman front-on,
not seeing her breasts, it’s not explicit and confrontational
like that. But there’s the imagination playing,
because you can’t look at this back without imagining the view
from the other side. And that, to me, is really explicit
when I get up to the woman’s face, because if you look very closely
at this face here, you’ll see that on her cheek there’s the tiniest little bit of a red
highlight, as if she’s blushing, and to me that always feels
like such an invitation to imagine her face,
imagine that she’s going to turn to us, imagine what she looks like
from the front. And the beauty of this painting, this incredibly modern,
incredibly exciting conceit, is that we do get to see this woman
from the front, By the time my eyes have come here and gone down her body
and back up her spine to her face, I’m caught by the mirror opposite, and we do see this woman
looking back at us, we get to come face to face with her. And for me there’s always a moment there which is kind of both resolution
and dissolution, because on the one hand, I think,
yes, we actually get to see her face, we get to have her looking back at us. But, look closely at that,
how much detail can you make out in that face reflected at us
in the mirror? It’s actually very blurry,
it’s very ambiguous. So just at the moment
when you catch sight of it and you think, I’m going to see
what this woman looks like, I’m going to see her looking at me, she sort of dissolves away again,
you see and you don’t see, and I think this theme of ambiguity
is really key in this painting. Then I look at the other details,
by the time I’ve got to the mirror, I remember, oh yes, there’s this
amazing red drapery that falls over, and there’s a grey bedsheet
as well as the white bedsheet, and that’s a mirror
and those are pink ribbons, which must have been
what was holding it up on the wall, it’s been plucked off the wall,
and it’s held up by this little boy. It’s not until my eye gets right
to this top corner of the painting, just about as far over as I could be, that I notice that this
isn’t a little boy, he’s got wings and little boys
don’t have wings, they don’t have feathers
sprouting out of their backs. And so this isn’t just a little boy,
this is Cupid, the god of love, and it’s having been on this amazing
journey looking around at the canvas, looking at everything that’s going on, it’s only at that last moment
that I remember, “Oh, hang on, we’re not in the real world here,
we’re in the mythological world, and this isn’t a woman
and that’s not a little boy, that’s Cupid and this is Venus,
the goddess of love.” If it weren’t for those wings,
you could spend a lot of time looking at that picture
and not notice that. So having not told you
the artist and the title, I will now. This is, of course, ‘The Rokeby Venus’
by Diego Velázquez, who is, I think undoubtedly,
the greatest painter of 17th-century Spain. It is the only surviving nude to have been painted by Velázquez’s hands,
so it’s very, very special. It’s also a very mysterious painting. We don’t know exactly when it was painted, we don’t know exactly where,
we don’t know who it was painted for. So it’s a painting that has
a lot of questions that surround it. But it’s been here at the National Gallery
since 1906, and it has in that time become
one of our most iconic pictures. I think this is certainly
the most famous nude in the Gallery’s collection. I think you could argue this is probably
the most famous nude in Britain. So it’s a picture that delights people,
surprises people, but one that has, as I’ve said,
many questions still around it. So that’s what I wanted
this talk to be today, a chance to look closely
at this painting, to focus on it, and also get a bit of that history
and context around it. So with that in mind, I’ll start with a little bit of biography
about Velázquez himself. He is born in 1599 in the city of Seville. He starts training when he is very young,
just 11, so in 1610, with the leading artist in Seville
at that time, who’s called Francisco Pacheco,
who is really important for Velázquez, because he doesn’t just train
with Pacheco, he goes on to marry Pacheco’s daughter, there are very close links
between the families. So he has this early training with Pacheco and then in 1617, when he’s 18 years old, he sets up as an independent master, so at that point he’s got his own studio,
he’s painting his own pictures. We’re lucky here at the Gallery, we have an outstanding collection
of pictures by Velázquez, so after the talk if you would
just pop over there, you could see two very early paintings of ‘The Immaculate Conception’
and ‘Saint John the Evangelist’ painted during these early years
of Velázquez in Seville. Both of those date to about 1618. If you do go and look at them,
you’ll see they’re very typical in so far as they’re
religious compositions. They’re very naturalistic,
the figures look very realistic, they have quite an earthy palette to them, and they have a very strongly contrasted
use of light and dark, which we think Velázquez
may have picked up from Caravaggio, maybe hearing about what it was
that Caravaggio was doing with light at the beginning
of the 17th century. But, Velázquez doesn’t stay in Seville and he doesn’t stay producing these religious still-life paintings
of his early years, because in 1622 he goes for the first time to Madrid, and he goes to the court in Madrid
with letters of introduction. And clearly he has some kind of impact, because in 1623, the following year, he’s invited back to Madrid
by the Count-Duke of Olivares, who’s very, very important,
very high up at court, and in that year on the 30th of August we know that he paints
his first picture of the King, King Philip IV. And we know that he paints that first
picture on the 30th of August and we know that on the 6th of October,
so just over a month later, he’s appointed painter to the King. So he’s clearly had a huge impact,
he’s still a very young man, and this changes his life,
because the rest of his life is going to be spent
almost exclusively in Madrid, almost exclusively painting for the King,
and these portraits are amazing, we’re lucky to have
two pictures here of Philip IV, and you can look through Velázquez’s
portraits of the royal family and see them aging in paint with
all these years that he spends with them. It’s Madrid that I want to think about,
because other than two visits to Italy, one in about 1630 to 1631, where Velázquez is being sent
nominally to learn about Italian painting, and another between 1649 and 1651, where in theory he’s going to buy things
for the King, other than these two visits to Italy Velázquez spends
all the rest of his life in Madrid, and I think Madrid holds
a lot of secrets and ideas that are very important for looking
at ‘The Rokeby Venus’, because Madrid in the 17th century
has this amazing paradox. On the one hand, it’s home
to the Royal Collection of painting. This is a collection of some
of the finest pictures in the world. And it includes, interestingly for us, some of the finest nudes in the world, so paintings, mythological paintings
by Rubens and Titian, and these are all in the King’s collection,
the King has these in his palaces. And yet at the same time,
it is in Madrid in the 17th century absolutely forbidden
to own or paint a nude. So there’s this weird paradox, right? The background to that being, of course,
that in 17th-century Spain the Catholic Church
is incredibly powerful, there’s the Inquisition, there’s a lot of suspicion around the idea
of painting a nude woman, because who is that for?
And who is looking at it? And how can you make sure
they’re not thinking naughty thoughts? And how can you have any sense
of what that painting might go on to mean or to influence? And we know that there are
explicit documents forbidding both the importation
of nudes painted abroad and forbidding artists themselves
to paint them, so there’s a Índice expurgatorio
of 1640, which says that if artists
paint nude figures, specifically nude women, they will be excommunicated
and exiled from Spain. There’s this extraordinary contradiction
that on the one hand the nude at this time in Spain
is the highest achievement of art, it’s the absolute height
of what any artist can do, the King and his courtiers own
lots and lots of nude paintings, and yet it’s forbidden and illegal. There’s one rule for one set of people
and one for another, that’s familiar. But there is this particular circumstance
that is very unusual around the painting of a nude. And that’s probably why this is
the only surviving nude by Velázquez, because they really weren’t painting
many of them in 17th-century Spain. This is, I think,
a very innovative composition, I think there’s lots of elements of this
that make it feel very, very modern. But inevitably any artist is always influenced by what he’s seen
and what’s come before. And I think that to understand
what it is that’s so innovative about ‘The Rokeby Venus’, you have to think of the two precedents,
if you will, the two types of Venus painting
that were most popular at this point. So thinking of people
like Rubens and Titian. Artist like them had really painted Venus
generally speaking in two modes. The first was the reclining Venus, so even if you haven’t seen one,
you can maybe imagine a Venus lying on a bed
in a rich palatial room, maybe you can see gardens outside, maybe the room is very elaborate, telling you that she’s
in some imaginary palace, and you can imagine a woman
lying naked on a bed, but facing you, so it’s quite confrontational, open about the fact she’s the most
beautiful woman in the world, she’s the goddess of love
and she’s on offer in the painting. The second type of painting of Venus is known as Venus at her toilet, Venus being adorned
with jewels and clothes. Not looking at us,
she might be looking at a mirror, she’s surrounded by attendants
or graces or Cupids, and in those paintings it’s the richness that reminds us that
she’s the goddess of love because she’s got these wonderful
pearls and diamonds, rubies and gold-threaded fabrics and furs, there’s a sumptuousness
to that kind of image. So if you were to look at this painting
bearing those two ideas in mind, it becomes apparent quite quickly how different what Velázquez is doing is, because look at this painting… There’s no jewellery, there’s no finery, there’s no riches on show, there’s no gold, no bangles or jewels
or earrings or anything like that. It’s actually, if you look at it closely, a fairly modest-looking space, because look at this expanse of bare wall that we see at the back
behind Venus’s head. It doesn’t look like a palace, it doesn’t tell us that it’s
a rich, sumptuous interior. In fact, if anything, that looks like
an ordinary contemporary room, maybe a contemporary artist’s studio. And that raises
an interesting possibility, because then if this is just
an ordinary contemporary room, could this be just an ordinary
contemporary woman? That is something that
has really plagued the picture, not plagued but been associated
with this painting right from the very beginning, because the first reference
we have to this painting is in 1651, and when we have this reference
in the archives in 1651, it doesn’t call it a ‘Venus’. The archives describe a painting
of ‘a nude woman’. So already there’s that ambiguity
tied up in the painting from the very first reference to it. Is it a goddess or is it a human being,
an ordinary woman? That is something
you can really get a sense of if you look at the painting closely. It’s a bit difficult in a talk,
but do come and look closely afterwards, because I think this ambiguity,
this question about whether she’s a goddess or human is absolutely tied into
the very essence of the painting, it’s something that Velázquez is asking,
even in his brushwork. So if you look at certain areas
of this painting, the brushwork is incredibly loose,
incredibly free. I’m thinking in particular
of these ribbons here which, if you look closely,
you can see they’re dashed off. Or particularly where Cupid’s leg
meets that bit of fabric there. There’s this very loose,
thick lines of black paint. It’s been done quickly,
you can see the brushstrokes. There’s a kind of freedom to it and a visible mark-making
that you get there. But if you look at Venus’s body, you can’t see any brushstrokes. I’ve spent a long time looking at that, I can’t see any sign
of how it’s been painted. Instead what we get is this incredibly
crisp, incredibly focused body, this kind of luminous skin,
almost pearlescent, but you can’t see how it’s been painted. And what that gives us is an effect
almost like photography, it’s almost like Velázquez
is focusing our attention for us on the body of Venus, and everything else is a bit softer,
a bit blurrier. And that is really true
when you look in the mirror, because if you compare the crispness
of the outline of that hip there and then this blurry, indistinct face
in the mirror, that’s not that Velázquez couldn’t paint
a really crisply defined face, we know he can,
he’s the most extraordinary artist. So he’s making a deliberate choice,
deliberately leaving that to be blurry. I wanted to read you a quote, probably
my favourite quote about this painting, by an art historian
called Enriqueta Harris. And she says, “There is an ambivalence about this woman, an uncertainty as to whether
she is a human being or the goddess of myth. And we are all left, each one of us, to fill in the features
of that face in the mirror.” And that to me is what is so fascinating
about this painting, that to paint the goddess of love,
to paint Venus, is, in a way, to paint ideal beauty. And what is ideal beauty? It’s different for me than it is for you. Everyone has their own version of what the most beautiful woman
in the world looks like. And so here, we’re being invited
with this blurry reflection to make her exactly who we want her to be
in our own imaginations. It’s a very, very clever conceit. So as I said, the first reference
we have to this painting comes in November 1651, and we don’t really know
when the painting was produced, though it was clearly before that. We date the painting
to between about 1647 and 1651, which is effectively to say
either just before, just during or just after
Velázquez’s second trip to Italy. And we’ve arrived at that
by looking very closely at how the picture is painted
and looking at other works that are dated,
that can help us pinpoint that. That raises a lot of questions, because that means is it a painting
of a nude that he paints in Italy, where there aren’t the same restrictions
on representing naked women? Or is it a picture that he paints
as soon as he comes back with all those Italian nudes
that he’s seen still fresh in his mind? Some people have questioned
is this an Italian woman he fell in love with on this second trip which takes place between 1649 and 1651? And the answer is that we don’t know. But what is unusual is that when we have
this inventory of the painting in November 1651, you might expect that, given that
Velázquez is the King’s painter, this painting would turn up
in a royal inventory, because he’s the King’s painter, effectively the King has first dibs
on anything he produces. But that’s not where the painting appears. It actually appears in the inventory of a very, very minor painter
and picture dealer in Madrid called Domingo Guerra Coronel. And we do not know how a painting
like this, a masterpiece like this, by the most important painter
in the country ends up in this very minor collection,
we simply have no idea. We know where it goes
from that point onwards. So the reason it appears
in the inventory in 1651 is that Domingo Guerra Coronel has died,
it’s a posthumous inventory, and we know that the painting is
then acquired by Don Gaspar de Haro, who is not only a notorious collector
of paintings but also a libertine, so if you read books,
there’s always a line that says he loved pictures
as much as he loved women, so maybe that’s why this kind of painting
would have appealed to him. The picture descends in his family, it descends through the family
of the Dukes and Duchesses of Alba until the very end of the 18th century
where the Duchess of Alba gives the painting to her former lover, the then-Prime Minister, Don Manuel Godoy, and we know that he hangs it in a room that’s described as being
a room full of Venuses, but we know that Goya’s ‘Naked Maja’,
who is definitely not a Venus and who is explicitly naked,
was also hanging in there, so a painting that’s hanging in a room for a very private consumption. And it stays in Godoy’s collection
until 1808. 1808, of course, is when the French
have invaded Spain, during the Napoleonic Wars,
and many great collections, including parts of the Royal Collection,
are sequestered, and there are lots of dealers and agents
in Spain at that point buying pictures for other people. So the painting is then bought for a British dealer
called William Buchanan, and it takes a few years but by 1813 the painting has arrived in England, and then in 1814
Buchanan sells the painting for £500, which sounds
very reasonable today, but it was a big amount of money, to a man called John Bacon Sawrey Morritt, and John Bacon Sawrey Morritt lives in a house in the North Riding
of Yorkshire called Rokeby Park. And so that finally is how we arrive as knowing this painting
as ‘The Rokeby Venus’, because it hung for almost a century
after that point in Rokeby Park. And there’s wonderful letters and titbits of how the painting was appreciated there. So in 1820,John Bacon Sawrey Morritt
writes a letter, saying he’s been rearranging
his pictures, quote, “to make room for my painting
of Venus’s backside” – charming! He decides eventually that he’s going
to hang this on the chimney piece above the fireplace, and he says that he arrived
at that decision so that, quote, “Ladies may avert their downcast eyes and connoisseurs may steal a glance without drawing said posterior
into the company.” So I suppose he thought that was a place
where he could have the painting on view without being totally disruptive
to polite society and conversation. And if you visit Rokeby Park today, you can see a replica of the painting hanging still there
above the chimney piece. It’s a replica, of course,
because we have the original here and we have the original here
because in 1905 the family decided that they needed
to sell the painting. They sold it to one of the leading
London dealerships at the time, Thomas Agnew & Sons, and Thomas Agnew & Sons were then asking
£40,000 for the painting. I know that doesn’t sound
like a lot of money, but for a bit of context, 20 years later when van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ – one of our most famous pictures –
was acquired, we paid £1,000 for it. So £1,000 – £40,000, and that’s with 20 years of inflation. At the time, the National Gallery’s annual purchasing
budget was just £5,000 a year, so £40,000 is a huge amount of money. But very luckily for us,
in 1903, so just a few years before, the National Art Collections Fund
had been set up. The National Art Collections Fund
maybe doesn’t sound familiar, but you probably have heard
of the Art Fund, who still help us buy paintings today. And having been set up in 1903, when this came around in 1905, this was their first major chance, their first chance to save a painting
for a nation, to have a big public appeal
to ask people to send in money, and they did, they successfully raised
the £40,000. We know, it came out afterwards, that the King had himself donated
anonymously £8,000. And there was a huge press furore
around this picture, this was the nation’s Venus, it was imperative that it could be
kept in Britain for people to enjoy. And so it was presented from the National Art Collections Fund
to the National Gallery in 1906. I think that very high-profile nature
of the painting, how hard everybody had worked to acquire it for the nation, to save it from being exported abroad
into a private collection where we’d never see it again, really made what happened
a few years later all the more shocking,
because, as some of you will know, this is a picture that was actually
attacked by a Suffragette in 1914, a Suffragette named Mary Richardson. Historically the National Gallery
hasn’t liked to talk about this too much because actually we’re here
to tell you the story of how the painting was made and to think about how beautiful it is
and explore what it might mean. Really this is just a little bit
of its history, but in this centenary year of some women
being allowed to vote and the statue of Millicent Fawcett
going up in Parliament Square yesterday, it felt very important
to mention it to you, not least because it teaches us
an important lesson about the painting, which is that actually ‘The Rokeby Venus’ is always more complicated
than we think it is. So, later feminist rereadings looked at Mary Richardson’s attack and
said, this is because it’s a naked woman and men are objectifying her and people are coming to stare
at this naked body. And, in fact, if you go back and look
at what Mary Richardson actually says in her trial and in the newspapers
at the time, she was doing that because
it was a high-profile painting, and specifically because she wanted to get
Mrs Pankhurst out of Holloway Prison, where she was being very poorly treated. So that was her motivation. This feminist rereading
about the male gaze and objectifying women came in later,
and actually later for Mary Richardson meant after she’d been
a socialist in the 1920s and then a fascist, organising for Sir
Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts in the 1930s, so the story is always more complicated was basically what I wanted
to share with you about that. But happily restored, this has been since it arrived at the Gallery
one of our most popular paintings, certainly one of the most enticing,
beguiling, mysterious, and it’s really up to you
to decide what that gaze means, whether when you walk past
you feel like you’re being caught out, it’s what I feel, that Venus
has caught me looking at her and now she’s looking at me
looking at her, or maybe you feel it’s an invitation, maybe she’s looking at you
with “come hither” eyes, maybe she’s questioning who you are
and what you’re doing. And to me, that is actually
the ultimate beauty of this picture and of most great works of art. I think they’re the ones that ask
more questions than they can answer, so I hope you’ll agree with me, and do look closely
at the painting afterwards. Thank you very much.

52 comments on “The Rokeby Venus: Velázquez’s only surviving nude | The National Gallery

  1. Of all the people they chose somebody who resembles the painting to do the explanation? 😀 No criticism tho, very knowledgeable and clear speech, she's great.

  2. Rokeby Venus: The painting that shocked a suffragette http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-26491421

  3. …CERTAINLY IS – A CASE OF GET OUT THE ALCOHOL, HAVE A LISTEN AND THEN…. THEN?
    DON'T YOU FEEL THAT THISMAY DETRACT FROM THE REALITY OF THE PICTORIAL REPRESENTATION – IN THAT THE FLESH AND BONES OF THE IMAGE IS JUST DENIGRATED – TO BECOME MERE VERBIAGE????
    I KNOW NOUGHT – HENCE MY LOOKING AT PICTURES.
    MYSELF THE WINDBAG…. YOURSELF…. YES – YOU! – COULD BE THE SEDUCTIVE POSER .. I DON'T THIK I HAVE EVER SEEN A PROVOCATIVE POSE. NAKEDNESS DENOTES THE PASSIVE.
    DID THEY ASK YOU, YOU THE LECTURER, TO SPEAK DUE TO YOUR BEING VISUALLY AKIN TO THE SUBJECT MATTER?
    YOU MUST HAVE NOTICED(?)

  4. The sitter’s blurred face is perfectly naturalistic. Given the viewer’s standpoint, the mirror is in shadow, and at some distance. The painting, apart from being one of the greatest marvels of Western painting, is full of ambiguity, deliberately deployed by a genius.

  5. I've checked the Rokeby Park website, the painting is not hung above the fireplace at the moment. http://www.rokebypark.com/

  6. It is interesting that also in the Heliad Homer does not describe the face of Helen at all.He just lets people imagine by them selves that she is the most beautiful woman in the world.He lets them discover in their minds their own perfect Helen.

  7. Thank you very much, Francesca, for such an excellent presentation of this masterpiece by Velazquez.

  8. No doubt it is one of the most evocative nudes…why need imagine anything further than what is presented? And considering the restrictions around nudes at the time, I would think that his keeping the soft vague features in the looking glass is a gesture of respect towards keeping the real Venus' anonymity. This suggests that the model may well have been connected personally to V in some way.

  9. The eye is drawn to the center of the painting because the indentation of the hip of the Venus is so anatomically correct and beautiful
    painted.

  10. In Spain, we know it as Venus of the mirror.
    And we also know it was stolen by an English soldier during our last war against France.
    A bit disappointing she did not mention it.
    Thanks for the talk, anyway. Very good one (as usual in this channel)

  11. Rokeby Venus known as The Toilet of Venus best painting ever before it was destroyed by a crazed person but it's a beautiful woman lying without clothes on great work of art planning on doing an erection do it privately

  12. A woman with no clothes on good her flesh her soft skin most of all her rear end better known as the behind is a work of art

  13. Terrific presentation– I'm completely with you in the progression of your reading, in your interpretation of how we look first at this painting.

  14. Another informative and entertaining talk from an engaging speaker. I've got to say, though, I've looked at this enigmatic painting numerous times, in the gallery and in reproduction, and I've never once thought about what the figure looks like from the front side – a lack of imagination on my part, I guess (then again, I am a gay man) (o;

  15. Time Mark: 5:00

    By this point the lecturer is having trouble saying: to her selfish delight she found the reflection to be of a face that she found unappealing aesthetically.

  16. It's pretty funny to watch historians try so hard to attribute meaning to the brush strokes and subject matter. I see a painting of an appealing model he hired or was dating, probably done in Italy where it wasn't illegal. The body is painted to completion because it's the part of most interest to the painter. The title "Venus" (if Velazquez even named it) is what polite society had to call sexy ladies back then instead of "nude gazing in mirror" or whatever. Ordinary motivations.

  17. This is an excellent and insightful presentation. I learned some interesting details. I did not realize creation and ownership of such paintings was illegal in Spain in the time-frame in which this work was created. I believe it is a universal truth, across all centuries and cultures: man appreciates and yearns to see the beauty of woman. It is not always a sexual urge, and I don't really see 'Rokeby Venus' as a sexual painting. I do find in this painting a dual truth. Yes, most men would proudly embrace the opportunity to gaze daily at this Venus in the privacy of their own home. But what you did not consider is how Venus is gazing at herself in the mirror. I don't believe Diego included the mirror so the viewer of the painting could see Venus' face. Instead I believe it is a commentary on how beautiful women enjoy seeing themselves reflected in a mirror! One can call that vanity, but in truth woman can also appreciate the beauty of woman. A woman who can appreciate her own beauty without conceit is a wonderful thing indeed.

  18. Rokeby Venus by Velazquez was the best painting in a lot of art galleries until someone damaged it such a shame to do something like that but to me I love the painting sensual and talented seeing a naked woman in a painting has a true meaning especially the rear end of Venus posing along the mirror

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