Evaluation of Art: Madonna and Child

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Madonna and Child used to be painted as the oil on panel by Albrecht Durer between the years 1469 and 1499. It measures 20 5/8” x 16 5/8” in its unframed stance. The have an impact on of Giovanni Bellini is evident in this painting, as Durer had traveled to Venice between 1494 and 1495 and became acquainted with his work. Bellini’s influence can be considered in the athletic build of the Christ child and additionally the pyramid shape of the Virgin. The features of the figures of the portray are very sculptural which is also very similar to how Bellini handled the same topic in a portray of his own. He also used a similar distinction of colors as to how Durer used the red and blue in the Virgin’s dress (Madonna and Child).

However, some of Durer’s own influences can be seen from his Netherland roots, such as where the figures are placed in the painting (off to one side with the window to the corner), and in the subtle painting of the alpine landscape that is seen out of that window.

It is most likely that the Madonna and Child painting by Albrecht Durer was commissioned for private devotion as there are two coat of arms painted in the corners that would make it personal only to those families that used those coat of arms. This coat of arms has been identified as those belonging to the Hallery and the Koberger families who were joined by marriage in 1491 with the union of Wolf III Haller and Ursula Koberger (Madonna and Child).

Venus with a Mirror was painted with oil on canvas by the Venetian, Titian. This is by far his most famous painting and there are at least 15 known versions of it in existence painted by either him or his assistants. The original, now highly deteriorated, stayed in his studio until a full 20 years after his death. The original was painted long before the one being looked at now that was, as far as can be told was painted in 1555. It measures, without the frame, 49” by 41 9/16”. The one believed to be original is thought to be so because, with x-ray analysis, there are other versions of the painting below it. One in landscape and one in portrait, and it had been painted over many times before the exact painting that can be seen above was left (Venus with a Mirror).

Many artists painted either Venus or a lover of their own, admiring their own reflection in a mirror during this era due to the love of, well, love, during the Renaissance time period. Petrarch’s love poem of Venus admiring herself in a mirror (“Il Mio AdversarioIn Cui VederSolete – Sonnet XI) didn’t help to spur on this movement either (Venus with a Mirror).

In this painting, Venus is in a relaxed pose, naked from the waist up, admiring either herself or thinking beyond the mirror to a long lost lover, perhaps. Two cupids are with Venus, one holding the mirror and another giving her a crown of garland. Given as this painting was finished at the height of the Renaissance era, Venus is painted as a canon of the female form as many other women were. She has the typical blond hair with fair skin that is touched with pink and she has arched brows and red lips. Her pose is modeled after a very famous marble statue that is in the Medici collection, but instead of giving off a marble, lifeless appearance, she very much appears lifelike, with rosy cheeks and supple flesh (Venus with a Mirror).

In the painting, Titian uses a variety of brushstrokes to keep those who look upon Venus and these cherubs instilled with a sense of wonder. This painting was meant to be looked at by many, hence there being so many versions painted of it.

The biggest difference between Madonna and Child compared with Venus with a Mirror is that Durer’s painting was obviously meant to be admired by a very small audience in its original era, while Titian’s was meant to be admired by many and it had been spread around to ensure that it was. However, given that both paintings are now part of larger collections that are admired the world over for their beauty both in their respective times and modern times, it is amazing how both artists were able to achieve the greatness of quality and exquisiteness that can only be achieved by the masters. This was achieved by both even with the limited audience of Durer’s painting compared to Titian’s originally. The popularity of both paintings now is a testament the excellence of these masterful painters given the true difference in the original audience these paintings were meant to have at the outset.

There is also a large difference in the composition of the paintings. Durer, in Madonna with Child, used a blend of contrasting colors within the clothing of the Virgin along with the subtleness of the alpine views out of the window to the left of the Christ Child. This contrast is in how the forefront visuals are portrayed against the backdrop outside of the room is very different compared to Titian’s Venus with a Mirror. In Titian’s painting, he was able to give subtleness to the entire painting even using contrast such as with the iridescence of the cupid’s wing, the contrast of the frame of the mirror, and the very subtle features of the figure of Venus herself. While he did use many different techniques, just like Durer did in his painting, those techniques did not show off as so much of contrast, but they showed off as an ability to blend those techniques together. The richness of the velvet robes was not meant to be in contrast to the supple skin of Venus but instead used to show just how rich and supple both were.

There is also a difference in both type and size of painting between the two. Durer painted his as the oil on panel and his was much smaller than Titian’s, whose was much bigger and was painted as oil on canvas (at least the version that was used in this comparison and is the one that is in the Andrew W. Mellon Collection).

Works Cited

“Madonna and Child [obverse].” National Gallery of Art, 19 April 2017,

http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.41598.html.

“Venus with a Mirror.” National Gallery of Art, 19 April 2017, http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/highlights/highlight41.html.

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