Painting Review – ‘The Toilet of Venus (‘The Rokeby Venus’)’

‘The Toilet of Venus (‘The Rokeby Venus’)’ by Diego Velázquez, 1647-51

Diego Velázquez, 1599 - 1660 The Toilet of Venus ('The Rokeby Venus') 1647-51 Oil on canvas, 122.5 x 177 cm Presented by The Art Fund, 1906 NG2057 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG2057
Diego Velázquez, 1599 – 1660
The Toilet of Venus (‘The Rokeby Venus’)
1647-51
Oil on canvas, 122.5 x 177 cm
Presented by The Art Fund, 1906
NG2057
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG2057

This painting is one of the few I saw that was actually behind glass. One of the things I noticed when standing in front of it was that her face is weirdly big, grey and smudgy in the mirror. Perhaps that’s to identify is more as a reflection or perhaps that’s to obscure the identity of the model a little (to save her from the spanish inquisition?). Also, up close, her feet are smudged too (almost like motion blur). I think this is just part of the painterly effect. The brushstrokes are very visible in this painting (unlike the others I viewed) for example in the dark bedclothes. However, Cupids face is so delicately painted that from far away you see a small boys face but from close up the features seem to disappear.

The Toilet of Venus ('The Rokeby Venus') 1647-51, Diego Velázquez. National Gallery, London.
The Toilet of Venus (‘The Rokeby Venus’)
1647-51, Diego Velázquez. National Gallery, London.

The caption beside the painting reads:

“Venus reclined on a bed before the mirror held up by a winged Cupid. The reflection shows her face, suggesting that she is observing the viewer rather than herself. The female nude is very rare in Spanish painting at this date. During the 19th century the painting was at Rokeby Park, hence its subtitle.” (National Gallery, London).

I chose to do my assignment 1 annotation on this painting which includes all of my other notes and observations. What I didn’t notice on my visit, but found out later whilst doing more research into the painting, is that in 1914 the painting was viciously attacked with a meat chopper! I’ve zoomed in on the national gallery website and you can just make out the marks if you know where to look but its amazing that I didn’t see what that was when studying the painting. Given the photos of the damage its an incredible restoration. I’ve learnt my lesson to do my research before seeing the painting in future.

I wrote in my notes that the postcard colours seemed fairly faithful to the painting but in my photo it seems something funny happened with the white balance because the original in the background looks a lot more yellow. I also noted that the highlights on the clothes at the front right and far back seemed more defined.

Postcard comparison of The Toilet of Venus ('The Rokeby Venus') 1647-51, Diego Velázquez. National Gallery, London.
Postcard comparison of The Toilet of Venus (‘The Rokeby Venus’)
1647-51, Diego Velázquez. National Gallery, London.

 

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