February 14, 2011

Positive Portrayals of Sex in Art: Titian's "Venus of Urbino"

This week I'm posting works of art that depict sex or sexuality in a positive light. Since Modernism genuinely positive portrayals of sex have been frowned upon by many in the arts community (particularly in art schools) for a variety of reasons--all of which I dismiss as bad ideas. So as a small gesture in the opposite direction, I am going to post and briefly comment on seven works of art which present sex and sexuality as happy, fun, satisfying, beautiful, powerful and good. Enjoy!

titian venus of urbino sex in art

I always thought this painting was a typical "odalisque" image, until an art history professor pointed out the woman’s left hand. I guess I never even considered that in 1538 an artist would paint a nude woman pleasuring herself on a bed. I guess I assumed artists would have been burned at the stake for even thinking about painting such a sexy, sensual subject.

There is a huge quantity of speculation (some better than others) about what all the other elements in the scene are and why she’s posed in such a provocative manner, but none of it is essential to an appreciation of this painting as a positive view of life and a positive view of sexual pleasure.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to know more about the symbolism of the different elements. At first I thought the girl in the background was praying, but looking closer she appears to be reaching into a chest. Any notion of what that's all about?