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« Silence is Golden? | Main | Shakespeare Titian II »



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Francis DeStefano

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, could have seen the Venus and Adonis in Titian's own studio on his long sojourn in Venice in 1575. If, as many think, DeVere was the real Shakespeare, then many things fall into place. Does your last citation hint at the Oxfordian interpretation?


David Packwood

Frank, Yes, the author of the last citation definitely takes the Oxford view. I stress this in the second part, but I played it down in the talk because I was speaking to a room of Stratfordians who don't take kindly to that view.

Francis DeStefano

In "Shakespeare by Another Name," Mark Anderson wrote, "There were at least four replicas of Titian's Venus and Adonis elsewhere on the Continent by 1575--most notably in the collection of the king of Spain. But the copy remaining in Titian's studio was distinctive. In Titian's copy and in Titian's copy only, Adonis wears a stylized form of a man's hat known as a bonnet. The other copies of the painting feature a bareheaded Adonis. Shakes-speare's Adonis wears a "bonnet [that] hides his angry brow."


David Packwood

Hi Frank- see next post!

K. Bender

Shakespeare & Titian I & II are excellent talks about the possible link between the beautiful poem of Shakespeare and the painting of Titian.
While there are strong similarities - e. g. verse 225: 'Sometime her arms enfold him like a band' - one should not forget that in Shakespeare's poem Adonis is a young boy - still a child (1, p.59) - but is painted by Titian as a grown-up. Furthermore, Shakespeare fully excluded Cupid, but art historians stress his presence in the paintings of Titian (see Shakespeare & Titian II).

As pointed out by David Packwood, there are many copies of Titian's masterwork. And there are also many other contemporary works, inspired by Ovid's myth, not always imitations of Titian's paintings.

For instance, Giogio Ghisi made a print (ca 1556 -1570), after a design by his brother Theodore, where Venus is seen from the back similar to Titian's composition, but holding Adonis' face in her hand trying to kiss him.

Veronese's painting of ca 1561, now in the Staatsgalerie, Augsburg, is another example of an analogue composition. Likewise are some works of Luca Cambiaso (1527-1585), among the very many he made about the myth.

Thus Shakespeare was perhaps 'looking at paintings which inspired these ideas, but not necessarily Titian’s'. One could add that in the methodology of iconology as defined by Aby Warburg in 1912 (2, p.31) not only pictures considered as the greatest masterpieces of art should be examined.

The successful afterlife of Titian's picturial and Shakespeare's poetic representations can be estimated quantitatively by the number of visual artworks with the subtopic 'Adonis leaving Venus' compared to the total number for the full topic 'Venus and Adonis'(3), compiled in my Topical Catalogues 'The Iconography of Venus from the Middle Ages to Modern Times' (4): 47/242 by Italian artists; 41/199 by French artists and 161/459 by artists of the Low Countries.

This success of both the general topic 'Venus and Adonis' and the subtopic 'Adonis leaving Venus' among artists of the Low Countries is striking and has, as far as I know, not been analyzed in an interdisciplinary approach (5).

(1) 'Shakespeare's Poems' edited by K. Duncan-Jones and H. R. Woudhuysen. 2007. The Arden Shakespeare www.ardenshakespeare.com
(2) 'Aby M. Warburg und die Ikonologie, mit einem Anhang unbekannter Quellen zur Geschichte der Internationalen Gesellschaft für Ikonographische Studien' by Schmidt, Peter; mit einem Anhang ... von Dieter Wuttke. Gratia : Bamberger Schriften zur Renaissanceforschung. Heft 20. Bamberg 1989.
(3) This categorization is based on the title and/or on the visual inspection of the artworks (sculptures, reliefs, paintings, frescoes, drawings, prints and illustrations).
(4) http://sites.google.com/site/venusiconography/home/topical-catalogues
(5) See my Research Paper 5 'Time Distribution, Popularity, Diversity and
Productivity of the Iconography of Venus in the Low Countries, France and Italy' (2011) http://sites.google.com/site/venusiconography/home/research-papers/research-paper-5

David Packwood

Dear Mr Bender,

Thanks for taking the trouble to write such a scholarly and detailed comment! There's much to ponder here. I was going to say more about the versions by other artists, maybe another time.

I will follow the links and read your research paper- it's a fascinating topic. I may do another post highlighting your research.




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