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Louvre: Titien – Woman with a Mirror

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Titien - Woman with a MirrorDenon wing – 1st floor – Mona Lisa room – Room 7

Normally it was called Laura di Dianti, Titian and his mistress, or even under this shorter title, the Mistress of Titian, this magnificent portrait of a young woman whose green velvet dress, half-defeated, shows the breast. She raises with one hand a stream of her hair of that red gold so dear to the elegant and the colourists of Venice, and, on the other, holds a vial of perfumes. A gilded white blouse, whose tone almost merges with the amber flesh tone of the skin, concentrates the light on this delicate and powerful throat, worthy of being modeled in the marble of Paros. The head, a little inclined towards the shoulder, has the serenity of the ancient ideal with that vigorous accent of life which is peculiar to Titian. It seems, in this beautiful face, to have sensed the type of the Venus de Milo, which was discovered only several centuries later.

To this beautiful woman, a man with a brown beard, held in the shade to let the beautiful creature shine, presents two mirrors so that she can see herself in all aspects. We would like the tradition to be true, and that this beauty so delicate and so proud would have been the friend and the inspiring type of the artist, but it seems that we must give up this poetic legend. According to the scholars who solve the vague traditions in precise facts, the man with the mirrors would be Alfonso I, Duke of Ferrara, that fourth husband of Lucrece Borgia whom Victor Hugo made so terrible; and the red-haired woman would be Laura di Dianti, at first the favorite of the duke, and then his wife. Titian had painted her half-naked when she was not a duchess, and he painted her dressed when she was raised to the rank of wife. If this is indeed Laura di Dianti, we can only approve of Alfonso de Ferrara and find just the name of Eustachia (happy choice) that he gave to the new duchess.

It would be childish to insist on the merits of this magnificent portrait; the most closed soul to the artistic beauties stops and feels moved in front of him, because the life, expressed with this intensity, has a force of radiance and attraction of which it is impossible to defend oneself. In his presence, the layman is not very worried about who this golden-haired woman was, but instinctively he realizes that what he sees is a beautiful thing, a deeply human work and he tries to guess this attentive and serious eye, the secret of the thoughts it reflects. Without knowing anything about the colors, he can not help but admire the palpitating flesh, the warm, muted hues that make it seem as if the blood is really flowing under this woman’s skin. Far from damaging the picture, the action of centuries has passed a velvety patina that adds to its charm without taking anything away from the splendid magnificence of the work.

Among all the painters of Venice, who were so prodigious virtuosos of the palette, Titian was, without a doubt, the one who loaded his brush with the rarest colors. Less brilliant than Veronese, he has more depth and security in the application of the tone; his canvases have less brilliant facets, but a more harmonious distribution of colors; he is more solid, more master of himself, and also more vibrant and warmer.

Titian approached all genres with the same genial ease, but if one had to make a preference for one of them, I would give it without hesitation to Titian portraitist. Whether he combs Charles V or Philip II, the Pope or Laura di Dianti, he imitates to his characters such a character of life that one discovers in them, not only their external physiognomy, but their intimate being, and that their feelings, their passions, their vices, are reflected on the revealing mirror of the mouth and the eyes. Titian combed men with more skill than women; it should be except, nevertheless, the portrait of Laura di Dianti which counts among the most beautiful of the great artist.

This portrait was executed around 1515. At that time, Titian was wanted by all the princes of the Italian courts; the pope and the emperor themselves were already thinking of attaching themselves to it. Requested on all sides, he decided on Alfonso Ferrara who enjoyed a great reputation as a friend of the arts. The painter was not mistaken. This legendary Maecenas received him with great favor, installed him in his own castle, and treated him like a friend. Titian, grateful, made the great portrait of Alfonso of Ferrara, a copy of which is in Florence, and he also executed the wonderful portrait of Laura di Dianti, whom the Duke had recently married.

The great artist afterwards painted many portraits, he produced many paintings of all kinds which are admirable masterpieces; in none he showed greater mastery of execution or a deeper knowledge of human physiognomy.

Laura di Dianti was part of the old royal collection; it is also given the title of Alfonso de Ferrara and Laura di Dianti.

Height: 0.61 – Width: 0.95 – Life-size figures.

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