Venus, the goddess of love, interrupts her music making to be crowned with a wreath of flowers by Cupid. An admiring, well-dressed youth playing the lute—the quintessential instrument for love madrigals—gazes at her raptly. In the background nymphs and satyrs dance to the music of a shepherd. Titian and his followers were known for capturing the complex personalities of female subjects. In this painting, Venus is more than an object of desire. In her devastatingly confident pose, she becomes a symbol of the power of women over men. Titian painted this amatory theme multiple times. This one was left unfinished except for the landscape background, which is fully painted by the artist.
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Fig. 1. X-radiograph
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Fig. 2. Painting in frame: overall
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Fig. 3. Painting in frame: corner
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Fig. 4. Painting in frame: angled corner
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Fig. 5. Profile drawing of frame. W 9 1/2 in. 24.1 cm (T. Newbery)
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Title:Venus and the Lute Player
Artist:Titian (Italian, Pieve di Cadore ca. 1485/90?–1576 Venice) and Workshop
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:65 x 82 1/2 in. (165.1 x 209.6 cm)
Credit Line:Munsey Fund, 1936
The Artist: For a biography of Titian, see the Catalogue Entry for Venus and Adonis (49.7.16)
The Picture:Venus and the Lute Player was unfinished at the time of Titian's death. Although we do not know who its first owner was, it can now be traced from the seventeenth century on. It may be the "Venere nuda del titiano con cornice Bianca in forma grande che sta a giacere" (the nude Venus who is reclining, a large painting by Titian with a white frame) listed in a 1624 inventory of the collection of Cardinal Pio di Savoia (Testa 1994, pp. 95, 97 n. 30, p. 99, no. 74). It and a related composition, Venus and the Organ Player (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin), were seen in the cardinal's palace in Rome by Giovan Pietro Bellori in 1663: "nel Palazzo di Sua Eminenza diverse camere ornate di pitture varissime: due Veneri al naturale di Titiano. . . ." (In the palace of his eminence [there are] diverse rooms decorated with most varied pictures: two life-size Venuses by Titian; Bellori 1664, p. 45), and the two are described in great detail in a 1724 inventory of the Pio di Savoia collection, with The Met's picture described as follows: "195. Altro con una Venere ignuda mezza colca, e non finite sopra un letto con cupido dietro, che li vuole porle una ghirlanda di firori in testa, a piè di essa vi stà a sedere un giovine, che tocca un liuto, con berretta e cappa di veluto all'antica, e spada indorata al fianco, di là un paese con alcune alberi, ad uno de quale vi stà appoggiato uno, che sona, e certi che ballano, la Venere, et il giovine sono figure grandi al naturale, alto palmi sette e mezzo, largo 9 1/2 in tela con cornice dorata, di Titiano" (Another, with a nude Venus, unfinished, half reclining with, behind her, a cupid in the act of putting a garland of flowers on her head; at her feet is seated a youth who plays the lute [and he wears] a velvet hat in the old style and a gilded sword at his side; beyond is a landscape with some trees against one of which there is a figure who plays [an instrument] and others who dance; the Venus and the young man are life size, seven and a half palmi high and 9 1/2 palmi wide, on canvas with a gilded frame, by Titian; Pio 1724). In 1742 both paintings were valued at the very considerable sum of 9,000 scudi (Pio 1742). The Met's painting was acquired by Sir Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester, for Holkham Hall, where it is recorded until its sale in 1931 to the firm of Duveen; it was purchased by The Met in 1936.
The theme of The Met's picture was treated by Titian a number of times, re-using the same pose for the goddess. The Met's picture is usually considered the latest. The first, and greatest, image of this sort is the so-called Venus of Urbino (Uffizi, Florence)—"so-called" because its recipient, Guidobaldo II della Rovere, referred to it merely as "la donna nuda", not as Venus, in his negotiations for the picture in 1538. In other variants, the theme is enriched by including Cupid, a dog, and a partridge (Uffizi, Florence), an organ player (two versions in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, one with a dog [inv. 420], the other with Cupid [inv. 421], as well as the version in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, with both a dog and Cupid), and a lute player (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art). In these six pictures the pose of Venus is very much the same: only the angle of the goddess's head and the direction of her gaze are varied substantially. In three the network of folds on the velvet coverlet are repeated: the Uffizi Venus, the Venus and an Organ Player in the Prado (inv. 421), and the Venus and the Lute Player in the Fitzwilliam Museum.
There can be little doubt, then, that in painting these pictures Titian made use of a cartoon or tracing (Hope 1980, p. 157). Indeed, Falomir (2003, pp. 85–86, 250–51) has demonstrated this to have been the case (for his analysis he was furnished with a tracing of the Museum's painting for comparison with the versions in Madrid, and there is a close correspondence in the figure of Venus and the profile of the musician). Whether the prototype from which the tracing was made was another, lost painting that Titian painted in 1545 for Charles V cannot be proven, but seems likely. What we have, then, is an immensely popular theme that Titian transformed by putting Venus in a domestic interior and varied by adding additional features—the most singular idea was to include a musician in contemporary costume, thereby conflating myth with genre, fiction with actuality—and assigning more or less responsibility to his workshop, depending on the importance of the buyer.
There is a notable variation in quality from picture to picture, perhaps most easily appreciated in the Museo del Prado, where the two versions of the Venus and an Organ Player can be compared. One (inv. 420) can be seen to be an essentially autograph, personalized picture, while the related variant that includes Cupid (inv. 421) is more generic in character and was certainly in part painted by the workshop, though prior to the restoration and technical examination many scholars had actually preferred it the other version (see, for example, Wethey 1975, pp. 63, 196–97, 199). That the Venus and an Organ Player (inv. 420) is the superior picture is revealed not only by the major compositional changes documented in the x-ray, but by the individualized heads of Venus and the musician, as well by the fact that all areas have been brought to the same delicate degree of finish and, indicatively, that the folds of the coverlet do not follow the scheme found in the related compositions. By contrast, in the second painting in the Prado (inv. 421) the body of the Venus is thinly painted (the brush underdrawing is clearly visible in her knees) while the head has a porcelain-like finish uncharacteristic of Titian and the carved woodwork of the organ is painted in a perfunctory and even somewhat crude manner (Falomir 2003, pp. 248–51).
Understandably, scholars have voiced widely divergent views about Titian's responsibility for these paintings, and this is particularly so in the case of the closely related pictures in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and The Metropolitan Musem of Art. There have been those who have preferred the Met's painting to that at Cambridge (Wethey 1975, pp. 66–67) while others have extolled the Cambridge version and relegated that in The Met to the status of a copy (Tietze-Conrat 1944 and Hope 1980, p. 157). However, since the x-rays of both paintings were published in 1965, opinions have tended to give priority to the Fitzwilliam painting (see, for example, Pallucchini 1969, p. 316, who reversed his earlier view). What was not given sufficient consideration is the crucial fact, already noted, that both paintings were generated from a single tracing and that small changes and "pentimenti" do not necessarily signify priority or the superiority of one version over the other: they merely indicate ways in which the initial blocking in was varied. Thus, while there can be little doubt that some of the traits found in both pictures—the angle of the head of Venus and the left arm and hat of the musician—were worked out in the Fitzwilliam picture and then incorporated in the version in The Metropolitan Museum (Goodison 1965), it does not follow that the Fitzwilliam painting is the "prime", "autograph" version and the Museum's picture an inferior "workshop replica"—terms that have little applicability in this situation. Both canvases were probably blocked more or less contemporaneously and put aside, to be taken up when Titian had a client. He then completed the work, varying details, and assigning portions to one or more assistants or applying the surface definition himself. Whereas the Fitzwilliam picture was carried to a finish—but by whom?—parts of The Met's picture remain unfinished. For example, whereas Titian added those brushstrokes necessary to define the foreshortened pose of the left sleeve of the lute player, the right shoulder and arm of the musician read as a flat shape rather than a three-dimensional form; his profile, too, lacks real definition. Titian may have made a start on the body of Venus, but, as the x-ray plainly reveals (see fig. 1 above), the very precisely painted face and finger tips as well as the pearl necklace are the work of an assistant or follower—obviously with a view to selling the picture (but during or after Titian's death?). The music book in the foreground and the sheet on the ledge behind the figures have no musical notation, the viola da gamba on the right is little more than a shape, and the folds of the velvet coverlet—which, importantly, do not follow the schema of the tracing—are barely indicated. X-rays suggest that when the composition was blocked in, the area for the landscape was left blank, and it is here that Titian's hand is fully evident. Not only is the landscape of great beauty, it compares favorably in style and brushwork to what one finds in Titian's great Rape of Europa (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston) that was delivered to Philip II in 1562, and it is about this time that he must have begun to work over the composition blocked-in by an assistant. We can only regret that he never got around to completing it.
Indicatively, it is in the lush landscape that Titian's transforming imagination is most evident. In a wooded grove, a Pan-like figure plays a flute while nymphs and satyrs dance—an obvious embellishment on the theme of the triumph of love and music portrayed in the foreground, where Venus, crowned by Cupid with a wreath of flowers, has been accompanying the lute player on a recorder. The viola da gamba and music book—obviously intended to be filled with an amorous madrigal chosen by the buyer—are included as invitations to the viewer.
Much has been written about Titian's domestication of the theme of the naked Venus by the addition of a musician dressed in contemporary garb. Some scholars argued that the pictures are about the neo-Platonic hierarchy of sight over hearing in perceiving beauty, though Panofsky (1969, pp. 120–25) observed that in the Cambridge and New York paintings, "Venus has . . . become the queen of all beauty, whether perceived through the eye or through the ear. And within the sphere of music itself her domain includes the rustic and often lascivious tunes of the pipe or flute . . ." This contrasts with an earlier, ground breaking article by Otto Brendel (1946, p. 69) in which he observed, "beauty, by essence immaterial, yet may adhere to the world of matter and in it may be perceived by the cognitive mind through vision and hearing. In the painted compositions, we interpret the music player as the only real actor; the rest is but the object of his perception." Brendel's abstruse reading of the painting was countered by what, today, seems a remarkably prescient argument by Ulrich Middeldorf (1947, p. 66): "I doubt that the pictures really have the ethos which Dr. Brendel seems to find in them. The main figures in Titian's Sacred and Profane Love [in the Galleria Borghese, Rome] possess a dignity and purity that make any high-flung interpretation of the picture seem acceptable. It is quite a unique picture, which we can well imagine as painted to suit the elevated tastes of an extremely refined person. The character of Titian's later Venuses and Danaes, however, seems to place them on an infinitely lower level. They are beautiful, but vulgar in comparison to the Sacred and Profane Love. Also the fact that they were produced in an extraordinary number of replicas does not encourage an attempt to look in them for purity of thought . . . . In brief, the suspicion can hardly be avoided that these pictures were rather 'ornamental furniture' than profound philosophical treatises. And the rooms which they . . . were supposed to decorate, were bedrooms." In his treatise on painting, Giulio Mancini (ca. 1619–21; ed. 1957, vol. 1, p. 143) states explicitly that this kind of picture, which he qualifies as "lascivious", should be hung in places where the husband and wife are together because they cause sexual excitement and encourage the birth of healthy, beautiful sons ("E simil pitture lascive [i.e., donne ignude] in simil luoghi dove si trattenga con sua consorte sono a proposito, perchè simil vedute giova assai all'eccitamento et al far figli belli, sani e gagliardi, come par che accenni e conceda il Sanus nel libro De Matrimonio . . . "). Titian's pictures can therefore be seen to embrace both an aesthetic of eroticism and the Renaissance poetics of love, beauty, and virtue (Rosand 1993 and Goffen 1997, pp. 159–69).
Keith Christiansen 2010
?Cardinal Carlo Emanuele Pio di Savoia, Rome (in 1624; inv., 1624, no. 74); Cardinal Carlo Pio di Savoia, Rome (in 1664); principe Giberto Gioacchino Pio di Savoia, Rome (in 1724; inv., 1724, no. 195); principe Pio di Savoia, Rome (until at least 1742; inv., 1742); Sir Thomas Coke, later Earl of Leicester, Holkham Hall, Norfolk (until d. 1759); his widow, Margaret, Countess of Leicester, Holkham Hall (1759–d. 1775); Sir Thomas Coke's nephew, Wenman Roberts Coke, Holkham Hall (1775–d. 1776); his son, Thomas William Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester, Holkham Hall (1776–d. 1842); Thomas William Coke, 2nd Earl of Leicester, Holkham Hall (1842–d. 1909); Thomas William Coke, 3rd Earl of Leicester, Holkham Hall (1909–30; sold for $200,000 to Duveen); [Duveen, London, Paris, and New York, 1930–36; on loan to National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, November 1933; sold to The Met]
Art Institute of Chicago. "A Century of Progress," June 1–November 1, 1933, no. 140 (as "Venus and the Lute Player," by Titian, lent by Duveen Brothers, Inc., New York).
Venice. Museo d'Arte Moderna Ca' Pesaro. "Mostra di Tiziano," April 25–November 4, 1935, no. 101 (lent by Lord Duveen, New York).
Worcester Art Museum. "Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition of the Art of Europe during the XVIth–XVIIth Centuries," April 11–May 16, 1948, no. 2.
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Diamond Jubilee Exhibition: Masterpieces of Painting," November 4, 1950–February 11, 1951, no. 23.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 109.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat. (p. 23).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 14, 1970–June 1, 1971, no. 210.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Venetian Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," May 1–September 2, 1974, no catalogue.
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. "Der späte Tizian und die Sinnlichkeit der Malerei," October 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no. 2.7 [no. 2.4 of English ed.].
Fort Worth. Kimbell Art Museum. "Art and Love in Renaissance Italy," March 15–June 14, 2009, not in catalogue.
Inventario della Guardarobba dell'Ill.mo. s. Card.le Pio consegnata al s.r Antonio Arsiani Milanese Guardarobba di SS.ria Ill.ma. July 12, 1624, no. 74 [Archivio Pio Falcò, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan, VN 296; published in Ref. Testa 1994, p. 99; Getty no. I-3667], as "Una Venere nuda del titiano con cornice bianca in forma grande che sta a giacere," possibly this work.
[Giovanni Pietro Bellori]. Nota delli musei, librerie, gallerie et ornamenti di statue e pitture ne' palazzi, nelle case, e ne' giardini di Roma. Rome, 1664, p. 45 [reprinted in Ref. Zocca 1976, p. 100], lists "due Veneri al naturale di Titiano" in the palazzo of Cardinal Carlo Pio in Rome.
Invent.m pro Exc.mo D. Pnpe Don Giberto Pio de Sabaudia. March 23, 1724, no. 195 [Notai del Tribunale A.C., notaio S.Paparozzi, vol. 5177, cc. 666r–713r, Archivio di Stato di Roma; pub. in Guarino, "L'inventario Pio di Savoia del 1724," in "Quadri rinomatissimi," ed. Bentini, Modena, 1994, p. 124; Getty no. I-976], as "Altro di una Venere ignuda mezza colca . . . di Titiano".
Inventario de' quadri dell' Eccma Casa Pio esistenti nel Palazzetto della Illma Casa Falconieri, che si ritiene a pigione per il comodo de' suddetti quadri. 1742 [published in "Notizie amministrative, storiche, artistiche relative a Ferrara," by Luigi Napoleone Cittadella, 2 vols., Ferrara, 1868, vol. 1, p. 556], lists it as "Altro rappr. una Venere a giacere, con un putto ed un soldato, di 'Tiziano' Sc. 9000".
Margaret, Countess of Leicester. Inventory of Holkham. 1765 [see Refs. Wehle 1940 and Zeri and Gardner 1973], lists it as by Titian and gives its provenance as Prince Pio di Savoia, Rome.
Richard Beatniffe. The Norfolk Tour. 2nd ed. Norfolk, 1773, p. 22, lists it as in the drawing room at Holkham; as by Titian, but calls it "hard and disagreeable".
J. Dawson. The Strangers Guide to Holkham. Burnham, 1817, p. 106, no. 181, states that the figures are portraits of Philip II, King of Spain, and his mistress.
A[braham]. Hume. Notices of the Life and Works of Titian. London, 1829, pp. 67, 96, calls it Philip II and his mistress, by Titian; notes that there is a very similar picture in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
G[iovanni].-B[attista]. Cavalcaselle and J[oseph].-A[rcher]. Crowe. Tiziano, la sua vita e i suoi tempi. Vol. 2, repr., 1974. Florence, 1878, p. 107 n. 1 [English ed., "The Life and Times of Titian," 2 vols., London, 1881, vol. 2, p. 159], erroneously state that Hume [see Ref. 1829] calls it a copy of the Cambridge painting.
Bernard Berenson. Letter. 1930 [see Ref. Zeri and Gardner 1973], attributes it to Titian.
George Martin Richter. "Titian's 'Venus and the Lute Player'." Burlington Magazine 59 (August 1931), pp. 54, 59, ill. p. 52, as at Duveen; considers it the original from which the version in Cambridge and another work in Dresden were copied; dates it about 1560.
Detlev von Hadeln. "Tizians Venus mit dem Lautenspieler." Pantheon 10 (July–December 1932), pp. 273–78, ill. (overall and details), thinks that Titian began it during the 1540s and finished it about 1560; considers it the prototype of the Cambridge picture and other versions.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 3, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 524, attributes it to Titian and dates it about 1560; calls the Cambridge picture a replica of inferior quality, a school work; also mentions versions in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, and in the Berlin museum.
Wilhelm Suida. Tizian. Zürich, 1933, pp. 115–16, 171, pl. CCXX, attributes it to Titian, calling the Cambridge version a replica and the Dresden picture a later copy.
Hans Tietze. Tizian: Leben und Werk. Vienna, 1936, text vol., pp. 192, 216; plate vol., p. 303, pl. 183, attributes it to Titian, possibly with studio assistance, and dates it about 1560; calls the Cambridge and Dresden pictures replicas.
Bernard Berenson. Letter to Harry B. Wehle. June 29, 1936, calls it a late work.
Harry B. Wehle. "Titian's Venus from Holkham." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 31 (September 1936), pp. 182–87, ill., attributes it to Titian and calls it a late work; states that the Cambridge picture appears to be an early copy.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 195–96, ill., dates it probably 1562–65.
Th[eodor]. Hetzer inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 34, Leipzig, 1940, p. 164, considers the Venus in the Uffizi the only original by Titian, calls the versions in Madrid and Berlin school repetitions, and judges the MMA painting to be farthest from Titian and perhaps without any connection to him.
Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 163, ill.
E. Tietze-Conrat. "The Holkham Venus in the Metropolitan Museum." Art Bulletin 26 (December 1944), pp. 266–70, fig. 1, identifies it with a painting in the collection of Joachim Sandrart in the seventeenth century and attributed by him to "Jacopo Tintoretto the Younger," whom she identifies with certainty as Domenico Tintoretto and to whom she attributes the picture.
Harry B. Wehle. "Letter to the editor." Art Bulletin 27 (March 1945), pp. 82–83, rejects Tietze-Conrat's [see Ref. 1944] attribution to Domenico Tintoretto as well as her identification of the MMA painting with the work formerly in the collection of Joachim van Sandrart.
E. Tietze-Conrat. "Letter to the editor." Art Bulletin 27 (March 1945), p. 83, reaffirms her attribution to Domenico Tintoretto.
Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 5 (November 1946), ill. on cover (color detail) and inside front cover.
Otto Brendel. "The Interpretation of the Holkham 'Venus'." Art Bulletin 28 (June 1946), pp. 65–75, fig. 1, discusses the iconography, finding that it is based on Neoplatonism, specifically on the idea of the primacy of seeing and hearing as the two senses most suited to perceiving beauty.
Ulrich Middeldorf. "Letter to the editor." Art Bulletin 29 (March 1947), pp. 65–67, comments on Brendel's [see Ref. 1946] Neoplatonic interpretation of this theme, suggesting that he may have over-idealized the content of this group of paintings and that their directly sensual tone should not be overlooked.
Otto Brendel. "Letter to the editor." Art Bulletin 29 (March 1947), pp. 67–69, defends his interpretation of this group of pictures.
Grose Evans. "Notes on Titian's 'Venus and the Luteplayer'." Art Bulletin 29 (June 1947), pp. 123–25, believes that it was painted in large part by Titian, and then after his death was finished or retouched in Tintoretto's workshop.
Dietrich von Bothmer. "The Classical Contribution to Western Civilization." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 7 (April 1949), p. 214, ill.
William E. Suida. The History of the Holkham Venus. 1949, pp. 1–4, identifies it with a painting included in the inventory of 1742 of the Pio collection described as "Another painting representing a Venus reclining with a putto and a soldier, by Titian"; rejects Tietze-Conrat's [see Ref. 1944] identification with the work from the Sandrart collection, as well as her attribution to Domenico Tintoretto, believing that Sandrart's reference to "Jacopo Tintoretto the Younger" more likely refers to Jacopo Palma the Younger than to Domenico Tintoretto.
Liliane Guerry. Cézanne et l'expression de l'espace. [1st ed.; 2nd ed., 1966]. Paris, 1950, p. 31 [1966 ed., p. 43], discusses the composition.
Hans Tietze. Titian: The Paintings and Drawings. 2nd, rev. ed. London, 1950, pp. 386–87, rejects the attribution to Titian, finding Tietze-Conrat's [see Ref. 1944] attribution to Domenico Tintoretto convincing although difficult to prove; suggests consideration of Marco Tintoretto as well.
Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, p. 228, no. 109, colorpl. 109.
Rodolfo Pallucchini. Tiziano: Lezioni tenute alla Facoltà di Lettere dell'Università di Bologna durante l'Anno 1953–54. Bologna, [1953–54], vol. 2, pp. 45, 115, attributes it to Titian and dates it about 1562, rejecting Tietze-Conrat's [see Ref. 1944] attribution to Domenico Tintoretto; remarks on the similarity of the landscape to that in the Rape of Europa (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston).
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 96.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), p. 1, ill. p. 22.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Venetian School. London, 1957, vol. 1, p. 189; vol. 2, pl. 1009, lists it as a late work by Titian, dating it 1560–65.
William Suida. "Miscellanea tizianesca - III." Arte veneta 11 (1957), pp. 71–74, ill. (overall and detail).
Edgar Wind. Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance. London, 1958, p. 123 n. 1.
W. G. Studdert-Kennedy. "Titian: The Fitzwilliam Venus." Burlington Magazine 100 (October 1958), p. 349, calls it a copy after the Cambridge painting, which he attributes to Titian; does not propose an attribution for the MMA work.
Francesco Valcanover. Tutta la pittura di Tiziano. Milan, 1960, vol. 2, pp. 41–42, pl. 72 [English ed., "All the Paintings of Titian," New York, 1960, vol. 3, p. 43, pl. 72], attributes it to Titian.
J. W. Goodison. "Titian's 'Venus and Cupid with a lute-player' in the Fitzwilliam Museum." Burlington Magazine 107 (October 1965), pp. 521–22, fig. 33, states that cleaning has revealed that the Cambridge picture is almost entirely from Titian's own hand, and that re-examination of the MMA picture shows that it was left unfinished by Titian and later reworked by a Venetian painter at the end of the sixteenth century; adds that the Cambridge picture is the prototype of the composition, with the MMA work showing revisions and modifications of the earlier painting.
A[lbert]. P. de Mirimonde. "La musique dans les allégories de l'amour." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 68 (November 1966), pp. 271–72, fig. 10, discusses the iconography of music in the allegory of love, noting that the swans are attributes of music, and that the sword worn by the musician is an allusion to the love of Mars and Venus.
J. W. Goodison and G. H. Robertson. Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge: Catalogue of Paintings. Vol. 2, Italian Schools. Cambridge, 1967, pp. 168–71 nn. 8–10, 13, under no. 129.
Erwin Panofsky. Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographic. New York, 1969, pp. 124–25, fig. 139, discusses the iconography; accepts Goodison's [see Ref. 1965] view that the Cambridge picture is the earlier of the two and almost entirely from Titian's own hand, and that the MMA picture was left unfinished by Titian and later reworked by a Venetian painter at the end of the sixteenth century; adds that there is no evidence to show that the alterations were made by Domenico Tintoretto.
Francesco Valcanover inL'opera completa di Tiziano. repr., 1978. Milan, 1969, pp. 128–29, no. 426, ill., attributes it to Titian with assistants and dates it 1560 or later.
Rodolfo Pallucchini. Tiziano. Florence, 1969, vol. 1, pp. 126, 170–71, 316; vol. 2, pls. 478–79 (overall and detail), accepts Goodison's [see Ref. 1965] attribution and chronology of the MMA and Cambridge paintings.
Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, p. 224 [rev., enl. ed., 1989].
John Goldsmith Phillips. "Canova's Reclining Naiad." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 29 (Summer 1970), p. 6, fig. 3, notes that Canova's sculpture of Pauline Bonaparte Borghese as Venus Victrix (Galleria Borghese, Rome) is probably based on Venetian Renaissance paintings like this one, rather than on the antique.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 202, 476, 607.
Teréz Gerszi. "Goltzius und Jan Muller: Beitrage zu ihrer Zeichenkunst." Nederlands kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 23 (1972), p. 52, fig. 5.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Venetian School. New York, 1973, pp. 77–79, pl. 93, date it to the first half of the 1560s; agree that it is based on the Cambridge painting, was left unfinished by Titian, and completed "in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century, by a Venetian artist influenced by both Titian and Tintoretto, and seeking to imitate Titian's late technique".
Harold E. Wethey. The Paintings of Titian. Vol. 3, The Mythological and Historical Paintings. London, 1975, pp. 66–68, 195–96, no. 45, pls. 121–22, 124 (overall and details), attributes it to Titian, "with no obvious intervention of assistants," and dates it about 1565–70; lists a second copy (whereabouts unknown), in addition to the Dresden picture.
Sylvia Hochfield. "Conservation: The Need is Urgent." Art News 75 (February 1976), pp. 32–33.
Emma Zocca, ed. Nota delli musei, librerie, gallerie & ornamenti di statue, e pitture, né palazzi, nelle case, e né giardini di Roma.. By [Giovanni Pietro Bellori]. Rome, 1976, p. 101, identifies this work as one of the two paintings of Venus by Titian mentioned by Bellori [see Ref. 1664].
David Rosand. Titian. New York, 1978, p. 140, calls the Cambridge painting the more finished of the two versions, and the MMA work "a 'ricordo,' a record of the composition fully blocked in but still incomplete," until retouched by another hand, possibly Domenico Tintoretto.
Fern Rusk Shapley. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. Washington, 1979, vol. 1, pp. 477, 480 n. 9, under no. 34.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 276–77, 293, fig. 509 (color).
David Rosand. "Ermeneutica amorosa: Observations on the Interpretation of Titian's Venuses." Tiziano e Venezia. Vicenza, 1980, p. 377, calls it "relatively unfinished" and the Cambridge version "more impressive".
Charles Hope. "Problems of Interpretation in Titian's Erotic Paintings." Tiziano e Venezia. Vicenza, 1980, pp. 120–23, fig. 36, traces the origin of Titian's various versions of this subject, proposing that they all derive from the lost Venus painted for Charles V shortly before 1545.
Charles Hope. Titian. New York, 1980, pp. 157–58, calls it "an indifferent copy of the Cambridge picture, [showing] no trace of Titian's own hand".
Howard Hibbard. Caravaggio. New York, 1983, p. 35, fig. 17, attributes it to Titian's workshop and dates it to the 1560s or 1570s.
Elise L. Goodman. "Petrarchism in Titian's 'The Lady and the Musician'." Storia dell'arte no. 49 (1983), pp. 179–86, fig. 7, argues that the origin of the iconography of this series of pictures lies in Petrarchan music and poetry rather than in Neoplatonic philosophy.
Francis Russell inThe Treasures Houses of Britain. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1985, p. 383, under no. 313, notes that aside from this work, the picture collection of Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester, is still intact.
Nanette Salomon. "Courbet's 'Woman with a Parrot' and the Problem of 'Realism'." Tribute to Lotte Brand Philip: Art Historian and Detective. Ed. William W. Clark et al. New York, 1985, pp. 147–48, fig. 4.
Roberta Giorgi. Titiano: Venere, Amore e il Musicista in cinque dipinti. Rome, 1990, pp. 26–27, 29–31, 36–37, 51, 55, 62, 66, 95, 119–23 passim, ill. (overall and details, color and black and white).
Richard Rand inThe Ahmanson Gifts: European Masterpieces in the Collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, 1991, pp. 138–39, fig. 35c, under no. 35, believes it to have been an inspiration for Hendrick Goltzius's "Jupiter and Danaë" of 1603.
David Rosand. "'So-And-So Reclining on Her Couch'." Titian 500. Ed. Joseph Manca. Washington, 1993, p. 113.
Volker Herzner. "Tizians 'Venus mit dem Orgelspieler'." Begegnungen: Festschrift für Peter Anselm Riedl zum 60. Geburtstag. Ed. Klaus Güthlein and Franz Matsche. Worms, 1993, pp. 80–81, 85, 88–90, 94, fig. 5.
Laura Testa et al. Quadri rinomatissimi: il collezionismo dei Pio di Savoia. Ed. Jadranka Bentini. Modena, 1994, p. 97 n. 30, p. 198, no. 74, fig. 88 (color), identifies it as no. 94 in the 1624 inventory of the collection of Cardinal Carlo Emanuele Pio.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 79, ill.
Rona Goffen. Titian's Women. New Haven, 1997, pp. 159–60, 162, 165–66, 168–69, 305 nn. 180, 189, fig. 95 (color), dates it about 1565–67.
Francesco Valcanover. Tiziano: i suoi pennelli sempre partorirono espressioni di vita. Florence, 1999, p. 261, dates it about 1562.
Maria Agnese Chiari Moretto Wiel in Filippo Pedrocco. Titian. New York, 2001, pp. 218, 259, no. 215, ill. (color), attributes it to Titian and accepts a date of about 1562; agrees that it can be identified as the work included in the 1742 inventory of the Pio collection [see Ref. Suida 1949].
Miguel Falomir inTiziano. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid, 2003, pp. 87, 248–49, 329, 394–95.
Meryle Secrest. Duveen: A Life in Art. New York, 2004, pp. 343–44, 493, dates it 1562–65; states that Duveen bought it from the Earl of Leicester in 1930 for $200,000.
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Venice and the Veneto." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 63 (Summer 2005), pp. 12, 15, fig. 13 (color).
Keith Christiansen inDer späte Tizian und die Sinnlichkeit der Malerei. Ed. Sylvia Ferino-Pagden. Exh. cat., Kunsthistorisches Museum. Vienna, 2007, pp. 252–55, no. 2.7, ill. (color and x-ray) [English ed., "Late Titian and the Sensuality of Painting," Venice, 2008, pp. 211–15, no. 2.4, ill. (color and x-ray)], states that Titian used a cartoon or tracing for the Venus series and that the prototype for the tracing was probably the lost painting made by Titian in 1545 for Charles V; argues that since both the Cambridge and New York works were generated from a single tracing, changes visible in the x-ray of the Cambridge picture do not necessarily establish it as the prime version; believes that both works were probably begun at about the same time and then put aside to be finished when Titian had a client; is unconvinced that the Cambridge picture was completed by Titian himself; points out that while the New York work remains unfinished, the x-ray reveals that the face, finger tips, and pearl necklace are the work of an assistant or follower, but that the landscape is by Titian himself; sees the series as embodying both eroticism and the Renaissance ideals of love, beauty, and virtue.
Fernando Checa inDer späte Tizian und die Sinnlichkeit der Malerei. Ed. Sylvia Ferino-Pagden. Exh. cat., Kunsthistorisches Museum. Vienna, 2007, pp. 217–19, 223 n. 2 [English ed., "Late Titian and the Sensuality of Painting," Venice, 2008, pp. 187–88, 193 n. 2].
Andrea Bayer inArt and Love in Renaissance Italy. Ed. Andrea Bayer. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, pp. 327–29, calls it "very possible" that the Prado picture no. 420 was the first of the five versions of the composition because of the change in the position of Venus's head visible in x-radiographs and because of the overall quality of execution.
Robert Wald in Frederick Ilchman. Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 2009, p. 77, mentions it among compositions by Titian existing in numerous variations.
David Rosand in Frederick Ilchman. Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 2009, pp. 180, 194, 281 n. 15, fig. 79 (color), states that the viola da gamba in the lower right corner awaits its player: the viewer, "who is thereby invited to participate in this musical celebration of love and beauty".
Arturo Galansino inTitien, Tintoret, Véronèse . . . Rivalités à Venise. Ed. Vincent Delieuvin et al. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2009, pp. 307, 429 n. 47.
Giorgio Tagliaferro et al. Le botteghe di Tiziano. Florence, 2009, pp. 228–29, fig. 109 (color), attribute it to Titian, with some studio intervention ("Tiziano, con parziale intervento di aiuti").
Dominique Lobstein inBirth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay. Exh. cat., de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. San Francisco, 2010, p. 61.
Frederick Ilchman. "Questioning Connoisseurship: The Other Late Titian in Boston." Venetian Painting Matters, 1450–1750. Ed. Jodi Cranston. Turnhout, Belgium, 2015, pp. 99, 102, 106, 110 n. 35, fig. 7.
Michael Gallagher inUnfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. New York, 2016, pp. 44, 265 n. 2.
Karen Serres. "Duveen's Italian Framemaker, Ferruccio Vannoni." Burlington Magazine 159 (May 2017), p. 374 n. 45.
Paolo Plebani inPeterzano: Allievo di Tiziano, maestro di Caravaggio. Ed. Simone Facchinetti et al. Exh. cat., Accademia Carrara. Bergamo, 2020, pp. 120, 132, compares the lute player's hat to that of the flautist in Simone Peterzano's "Concert" (ca. 1555–65, Staatliches Museum, Schwerin).
The frame is twentieth-century, though based on Renaissance models, made in the workshop of Ferruccio Vannoni (1881–1965), who was extensively employed by the Duveen firm. (For Vannoni, see Karen Serres, “Duveen’s Italian Framemaker, Ferruccio Vannoni,” Burlington Magazine 159 (May 2017), pp. 366–74.)
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