Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus

The Sleeping Venus, by Italian Renaissance painter Giorgione (Giorgio da Castelfranco Barbarelli, 1477-1510), is considered by critics one of the starting points for modern art, for depicting a naked woman. The erotic innuendo of the painting, the raised arm of Venus and her left hand on her crotch emphasize the revolutionary nature of the work, which led to it being sheltered modestly for many decades, shielded from the public eye. The painting was also groundbreaking for the new use of the landscape as a frame for the goddess.

After Giorgione’s death at only 33 years, the work was completed by Titian, who use it as a model for the famous Venus of Urbino. Titian added a cupid between Venus’ legs, certainly a tribute to Giorgione’s rebellion. But this detail was removed in the restoration work in 1800 due to its poor condition.