Home‎ > ‎Connectivity Maps‎ > ‎

TIZIANO's Venus with the Musician

Tweet It is said that the Emperor Charles the Fifth paid in 1549 for a painting that would sustain his negotiations for a marriage of his son Philip (1527-1598) with Mary Tudor and it is generally accepted that TIZIANO depicted Philip, at that time a young man of 22, as an organ-player paying tribute to his presumed fiancé. Philip married Mary I of England in 1554 and was King of Spain and the Two Sicilies (as Philip II) and of the Netherlands (the Low Countries) from 1555 onwards.
TIZIANO Vecellio (c1488 Pieve di Cadore - 1575 Venezia), known as the Apelles of Modern Times, is one of the prolific Italian painters with respect to the Venus iconography (see Research Papers 1 and 2).

Most famous is his 'Venere di Urbino ' (posthumous title, originally entitled 'Una donna nuda') in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze, inspired by the 'Schlummernde Venus'  of his master Giorgio GIORGIONE in the Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, and innumerable times copied by followers and imitators.

Not less famous and much discussed is 'Amor sacro e Amor profano' in Galleria Borghese, Roma, which title is also posthumous (1693) and could be better called 'Geminae Venere' ('Twin Venuses') according to Erwin Panofsky ('Problems in Titian - mostly iconographic'  New York University Press, 1969). See Blog-posts 'The 'Twin Venuses' of Titian or 'Sacred and Profane Love' revisited' and 'Cybernetics and art history: an odd relation?'

Other famous Venus paintings of TIZIANO include, among many more, 'Venus and Adonis' 
(with several replicas, see 'Was Shakespeare inspired by Titian's 'Venus and Adonis'? ' ) and 'Venus at her toilet' or 'Venus with the mirror'.

TIZIANO and his workshop created between 1550 and 1570 five or six paintings with the topic 'Venus with the Musician', which got entries in the Topical Catalogue Vol.1.1 'The Italian Venus' under topic 16. Both the iconography and the iconology of these paintings have been intensively examined (see Panovsky, op. cit.,  Roberta Giorgi 'Tiziano - Venere, Amore e il Musicista in cinque dipinti' Gangemi Editore, Roma, 1990). They can be easily distinguished in two groups.

*Group A shows Venus reclined to the right with an organ-player at the left side, his back to the viewer and turning his head to look at her body. The three versions differ mainly in the company of Venus: she is accompanied by either Cupid and a dog (in Staatlichen Museen, Berlin, considered by scholars as the oldest version), by Cupid alone (in Museo del Prado, Madrid) or by the dog alone (also in Museo del Prado, Madrid; see Marlene Lynette Eberhart 'Sensing, Time and the Aural Imagination in Titian’s Venus with Organist and Dog'  in Artibus et Historiae no. 65 (XXXIII) 2012 pp. 79–95)

*Group B shows  Venus, again reclined to the right, but the musician at the left side is now a lute-player, also with his back to the viewer and turning his head to look at her body. This time only Cupid accompanies and he is crowning Venus. The differences in the three versions are minor and relate mainly to the background landscape. The painting, considered as the original in this group, is owned by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; a replica by TIZIANO's workshop is in the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, New York; the third version was possibly not a replica but a copy: it was previously in the Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, was on loan at the Reichskanzlei in Berlin since 1939 and is now lost.

The theme 'music' is commonly associated with 'love' and thus music and music instruments are part of several early miniatures depicting Venus in illuminated manuscripts as in this Southern Netherlandish book 'Liber astrologiae', fol. 42v of the 3rd quarter 14th century by Fendulus, Georgius (Zothorus Zaparus ?), owned by the British Library (ms Sloane 3983)

An early relief-sculpture by the French sculptor Etienne JAMET (1515 - 1565), alias Esteban JAMETE  working in Spain, shows Venus playing a string instrument while Cupid presents his arrow.
The relief is in Ubeda, Palacio Francisco de los Cobos.

Also in many paintings and engravings Venus is represented with a music instrument (A.P. de Mirimonde 'Astrologie et  musique'  Editions Minkoff, Genève. 1977).
An interesting early example is Allegory of Love and Music attributed to the Flemish painter Jan VAN HEMESSEN (c1500-after 1575): note the small oval painting with a naked couple - Adam and Eve? - above the naked woman holding a lute;

the dog is commonly an attribute of Venus.

But TIZIANO's representation of a reclining Venus with a musician playing for her alone is a fully new one: there are no PREDECESSORS known, nor are there preparatory drawings known.


An early copy of the Berlin-painting in Group A is attributed to the circle of Lambert SUSTRIS (c1515 Amsterdam-c1590 Venezia) who was an assistant of TIZIANO.


Gillis COIGNET, a Flemish painter (c1538 Antwerpen-1599 Hamburg),  made two close  'analogues'  of the Madrid-version with Cupid, but with the organ-player depicted as Mars and with war activities shown in the background: no doubt that this is an allusion to the disastrous wars of Philips II against the Low Countries. 
Antoon VAN DYCK (1599-1641) made a sketch of the Madrid-version with the dog (or from a copy of it) during his Italian journey (1621-1627).
The earliest print, representing in reverse exactly the Madrid-version with the dog, is by the English engraver Richard GAYWOOD (active 1644-1668) in 1656. An impression of this print was sold in London, Sotheby's in 1877 with the notorious title 'Philip II and his Mistress'.

Also Group B was known: Aegidius SADELER (1570-1629) made around 1600 an 'analogue' drawing of a voluptuous Venus, disrobed by Cupid, and a lute-player at her feet. At that time the Cambridge-version was in the possession of Emperor Rodolph II in Praha, for whom SADELER was working. It is a matter of discussion whether he depicted the Emperor or himself as the lute-player.

An 'analogue' painting entitled 'Allegory of Vanity' or 'Venus with the lute-player' including Cupid, an attendant of Venus and several putti
in a much more developed composition, was made - around the same period - by Pieter-Fransz ISAACSZ (1569-1625).

This painter made also a 'Venus reading, with a lute at her feet', but with only Cupid as company .

An earlier variant of the latter is 'Venus playing the lute, with Cupid' attributed to Simone PETERZANO (1540- c1596), a pupil of TIZIANO and mostly known as the master of CARRAVAGGIO. It was previously attributed to Parrasio MICHELE (1516–1578), also a pupil of TIZIANO.

Venus, with Cupid shooting an arrow,  seated next to a lute-player is also depicted in an engraving entitled 'Adolescentia Amori' by Crispijn DE PASSE (I) (c1565-1637) after a drawing by Maerten DE VOS (1532-1603)

Another interesting example is emblem XI in 'Emblemata Amatoria' by P. C. Hooft, first published in 1611 :  a picture of a reclining Venus with Cupid is seen on the inside lid of the clavichord played by a lady. The editor, in his comments of these emblems, refers explicitely to Tiziano's paintings as inspiration for emblem XI (K. Porteman, 1983, Nijhoff, Leiden, pp. 98-99,160-161).

A painting by the French artist Antoine COYPEL (1661-1722) shows Venus seated, with Eros above her and several putti around, and listening to a lute-player standing next to her.

Much later Joshua REYNOLDS replaced the lute by a flute in his 'analogue' painting (c1775) 'Venus and a boy playing a flute'  and Venus, still reclining, is no longer attended by Cupid. 

Jacques BOUILLARD's coloured engraving, based on a drawing by Antoine BOREL and presented as n°607 at the Paris' Salon des Artistes in 1800, is peculiar since it bears the same notorious title as given to GAYWOOD's print of 150 years earlier, but it represents  the Cambridge-version 'Venus and Cupid with a lute-player'. This painting had moved from Praha into the collection of the Duc d'Orleans in Paris, where it was bought by Fitzwilliam in 1798.

It was the inspiration for Thomas ROWLANDSON (1756-1827): a print of 1799 entitled 'The Serenade' shows the lute-player and a naked woman, but Cupid is left out (with the printseller Sanders of Oxford).

The German engraver Hugo BUERKNER made a print in 1858 of the Metropolitan workshop replica.

The painting was reproduced as an enamel painting by Horace HONE in 1815.

Eugene REUNIER, pseudonym for the German artist Carl Breuer-Courth (1884-1960), drew a highly erotic scene with a nude woman, a lute-player and a dog.

The modern artist Raoul DUFY (1877-1953) made an 'analogue' drawing of TIZIANO's Group A painting without Cupid or dog.

Also DALI got inspiration from TIZIANO for his elegant 'Vénus au joueur d'orgue', an etching and drypoint coloured with stencil from 1971. It is a reverse imitation without Cupid and dog.

See for details: DALI, PICASSO, TIZIANO and Venus

Around the same time as DALI in 1970, PICASSO made a print imitation of  a reverse of  TIZIANO's 'Venus and the lute-player'  (Group B): it is described as : <Plaisanterie sur une Serie de Peintures célèbres de Titien: Vénus avec un Musicien et un Amour, from la Série 156>.
But he made in 1970 also a painting 'Nu couché et homme jouant de la guitare'. In both cases the musician faces the viewer.

The British artist John BELLANY (1942-) entitled his painting 'Love song: homage to Titian' , also in the Fitzwilliam Museum, and was clearly inspired by the painting of Group B in this Museum. (Authorization requested)

The Italian artist Milo MANARA found also inspiration in Group B and entitled his print untypically 'La Venere di Giorgione'.

Group A 'Venus with Organist and Dog' (Museo del Prado, Madrid) found in 1972 an imitator in the Polish artist Erwin SOWKA, (b.1936 Katowice -), known as a naive painter.
The painting was on auction on 24 May 2014 in Henry's Auktionshaus, 67112 Mutterstadt, Germany.

The links among these MASTERWORKS and some of their SUCCESSORS (copies or analogues, drawings and engravings), are visualized with VUE in a Connectivity Map, here given as a jpeg figure (click to enlarge).

Please read the general introduction about the VUE presentation in 'Connectivity Maps'. These Maps are tentative and may be adjusted or expanded whenever more information is available.

Viewers are kindly invited to send their comments mailto:bender@telenet.be

NEXT         HOME

Last update of this page: 6/10/2014