The Sleeping Venus painted by Giorgione is considered to be one of the many masterpieces that came out of Venetian painting in the Renaissance that came out of the style of one of the Old Masters from Venus and is considered one of Giorgione’s landmark works. The Sleeping Venus combines the traditional styles of representing Venus and a sleeping spring nymph while for the first time in Renaissance art,an almost life-size nude completely fills the pictorial frame.
Moving onto the features of the piece itself, we see that the background is quite similar to Giorgione’s painting “The Tempest” in that it is much more than just a scene by-product as through its balanced composition that along with the figure of the Venus creates a mood that along with the Venus which creates a harmonious unity within the painting. This style of paintings by Giorgione actually paved the way for the development of reclining female nude and landscape painting which much of Western art has depended on at one point or another. Giorgione’s work was highly collected by the elite of the elite intelligents in society in Venice, Giorgione’s High Renaissance painting is characterized by his dreamy lyricism which included his use of the uniqueness of his gradualist sfumato coloring,his sophisticated blending of colors and his blending of figurative and natural elements.The painting depicts a reclining sleeping nude woman whose profile actually seems to merge with the hills painted in the background behind her. In addition to stark nudity that the Venus portrays, the raised arm and her left hand being placed on her groin only add to the erotic appeal of the image which is degraded somewhat when one considers the color of the sheets which are a metallic-silver color compared to the white linen ones painted by Titian his student and successor. The curves and colors that are present in the background of the Sleeping Venus harmonizes perfectly with the Venus who sleeps and dreams of love. An important fact to note is that the painting is based on the recollection of love and not based on the actual act of love. This painting in turn inspired other artists to take their shot at similar paintings based off of this painting by Giorgione such as The Sleeping Venus (1625-30) by Artemisia Gentileschi; The Rokeby Venus (1647-51) by Velazquez; The Nude Maja (1797-1800) by Goya; Olympia (1863) by Manet.
There is no patron attributed to this work by Giorgione but this work by Giorgione inspired other artists that came after his time as an artist to make their own interpretations of the well-known legend of Venus and his influence lead to such works such as The Sleeping Venus (1625-30) by Artemisia Gentileschi; The Rokeby Venus (1647-51) by Velazquez; The Nude Maja (1797-1800) by Goya; Olympia (1863) by Manet.
This artwork was important during it’s time-period as it turned the world of art on its head during the Renaissance due to Giorgione using the uniqueness of his gradualist sfumato coloring,his sophisticated blending of colors and his blending of figurative and natural elements which had not been used to great effect up until Giorgione showed up on the scene and began painting using his hallmarks.
The Sleeping Venus by Giorgione is important during today’s day and age as it showcases Giorgione at his masterful best which later inspired other artists that would use his hallmarks to great effect just like their predecessor. This art piece is important today as it makes you realize that you are not part of just a single culture but also multicultural mosaic that stretches the globe.
Footnotes for this article:
Jennie Wehmeier, “The Revival of the Olympian Gods in Renaissance Art by Luba Freedman,” Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 35, no. 1 (2004): , doi:10.1353/cjm.2004.0045.
Joanne G. Bernstein, “The Female Model and the Renaissance Nude: Durer, Giorgione, and Raphael,” Artibus et Historiae 13, no. 26 (1992): , doi:10.2307/1483430.
Rona Goffen, “Renaissance Dreams,” Renaissance Quarterly 40, no. 4 (1987): , doi:10.2307/2862448.