Sleeping Venus, Giorgione

Sleeping Venus, Giorgione
Sleeping Venus, Giorgione

The Sleeping Venus, also known as Venus of Dresden, is one of the last works made by Giorgione and one of the most unknown to art scholars in general. It is an oil on canvas with a mythological theme which is reality, a mere excuse for the painter to capture the beauty of the female figure.

Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco, known by the name of Giorgione (1477 – 1510) is one of the most outstanding figures of Renaissance painting in the Venetian school. In reality, there is not much data that we have about his biography and his early death contributes even more to discussing the already laborious authorship of his canvases; only six complete works are unequivocally attributed to him, however the one from Castelfranco is one of the most important masters of the High Renaissance. A master of drawing and composition, Giorgione never submitted to the limits of line showing himself just as adept at chromatism and working on his canvases –especially in the last stage- with great freedom and improvisation.


It seems that, around the year 1507, Giorgione was commissioned to make this beautiful Venus on the occasion of the marriage between Gerolamo Marcello and Morosina Pisan. In 1510, when he was only thirty years old, the artist died due to a plague epidemic and the work remained unfinished. According todocumentary sources of the time, Titian himself, would be commissioned to finish the canvas; There are many conjectures that are being considered about the relationship between the two artists and although some authors think that Titian could have worked as a student of Giorgione, for other critics the relationship between the two is due to the friendship they established when both were trained in the workshop by Bellini.

Be that as it may, the truth is that Giorgione's work set the precedent of a good number of Venuses that follow the same scheme as this sleeping Venus: the goddess of love appears naked, lying on thin sheets, completely naked. Her right arm is used by the goddess to support her head slightly bent towards the ground and with her eyes half-closed while her other hand rests on her pubic region. Her posture oozes sexiness from her as she comes across as demure enough not to be rude.

The beauty and curves of the young woman follow the same rhythm as the capricious landscape where she dozesthus creating a harmonious atmosphere that surrounds the entire composition. The houses that appear in the idyllic scene are reminiscent of the constructions that the artist made for the Noli me Tangere canvas some years before. Upon Giorgione's death, Titian had to finish the composition and the artist has traditionally been credited with the cloudy sky in the composition and some final touches to the landscape.

Currently Giorgione's canvas is exhibited at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, Germany.

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