Venus and Cupid by Velasquez

IT WAS no doubt a problem to one whose rank was that of Grand Marshal of the Palace in a Court noted for its sober dignity to paint the goddess Venus, full length, full faced, and unadorned, and yet in painting her preserve to some extent her modesty, and spare a prudish Court its blushes. That problem Velasquez, with a mirror, solved. And the picture, owned at one time by the Merritt family of Rokeby, is now known as the "Rokeby Venus."

Although the art of painting is ostensibly limited to the appearance of life, the painter-seer (and all great masters of the art are that) views surfaces as but the covering of underlying structural truth or principle. Under the forest-clad slopes that meet our eyes the seer perceives the naked contours of the earth; behind the mask of the human countenance he discerns essential character; and beneath the voluminous brocades and satins, the hoops and panniers of whalebone and steel, the bales of petticoats that made, to courtiers' eyes, a Spanish lady there lived, though who would guess it, the primordial woman, call her Eve or Venus.


The Rokeby Venus, circa 1648-51

The Rokeby Venus,...
Diego  Velázquez
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