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Diego Velázquez – Venus and Cupido

by Alexandra Tuschka

"A beautiful back can also delight" seems to have been the Spanish painter Diego Velázquez's thought when choosing his motif. The shapely body of Venus, the goddess of love, nestles gently into the bed sheets. The hair is pinned into a loose chignon, the face rests relaxed on the bent arm. The lady also has a right wasp waist! Curvy, yet ideal, the Spaniard shows the unknown.

This painting is treated as the first Spanish nude and evokes associations with Giorgione and Titian. Velázquez's solution, on the other hand, is much more unconventional than that of his predecessors: he turns the nude around without further ado, and with the mirror motif nevertheless integrates the lady's face in the center of the picture. Admittedly, the painter neglects that in reality with this angle of reflection another part of the body would have to be seen. In this way, however, he creates a connection to the viewer. With this representation, Vélazquez positions himself between the erotic, open attitude of the "Venus of Urbino" and the innocent figure of Giorgione. The mirror theme and the play with the viewer's role also point to the pictorial solution in "las meninas" and has iconographic similarities to the pictorial theme of the "Toilet of Venus".

In this mirror, the face appears blurred and - compared to the precise brushstrokes and outlines of the other body parts - diffuse. In this way, the painter was able to let the focus of the eye rest on the beautiful female body, without foregoing the play on the role of the viewer. Painted around 1646, the painting ushers in the late work of the painter. Here it is expressed that the space and the spatial effect became increasingly unimportant for the painter. The colors blend into one another in a two-dimensional manner, and hardly any depth is achieved due to sparse overlaps. In front of the red, strong background, Cupido blends playfully and homogeneously into the surface structure.

Diego Velázquez - Venus and Cupid

Oil on canvas, 1646, 122 x 177 cm, National Gallery in London


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