Rokeby Venus


Rokeby Venus
(1648; London, National Gallery)
   Known as the Rokeby Venus as it once formed part of the Morritt Collection at Rokeby Hall in Yorkshire, the work was created by Diego Velázquez for Gaspar Méndez de Haro, Marquis of Carpio and Heliche and nephew of Count-Duke Olivares, Philip IV's minister. It was listed in his collection in 1651, hanging on the ceiling above a bed, which indicates that the work was meant as a private erotic image. It was probably painted by Velázquez in Italy, where he traveled from 1648 until 1650 to purchase antiquities for the king's collection. One of those works was a Recumbent Hermaphrodite from the Greek Hellenistic era whose pose recalls that of the Rokeby Venus, which no doubt served as the prototype. The painting is rare for Spain, as deep religious devotion impeded the rendering of erotic subjects. Venus' modesty here contrasts with the voluptuous reclining nudes by Titian and Giorgione who were surely on Velázquez's mind when he rendered the image. Unlike her unabashed Italian counterparts, Velázquez's Venus is turned away from the viewer and her reflection in the mirror is blurred to protect the identity of the woman who served as the model.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.