The splendid Venus, the Goddess of Love, stretched out across a bed, turned towards a mirror, allusion of a beauty destined to vanish. The curve of her body is offset by sumptuous satin sheets. Her pale skin is in stark contrast to the lively brushstrokes of the red curtains and dark sheets. The Goddess, a brunette, not a blonde as the tradition suggested, lacks the usual mythological ornamentation generally relegated to such nude scenes. Her face is reflected in the mirror held up by Cupid. Yet the face is out of focus, not allowing the viewer to make out the features distinctly. Just as the God of Love, Cupid, is only depicted vaguely, a rough sketch of a face, a leg, as if the painter really wanted to focus in on the Goddess exclusively. Perhaps the message of Velázquez is the impossibility of identifying Venus, the personification of feminine beauty. Thus, the artist invites us to fill in the blanks, using no more than our own imaginations. This is the only surviving nude by Velázquez, the jewel of the National Gallery. The name The Rokeby Venus, is derived from Rokeby Park, a country home in the County of Durham, where the painting hung for the better part of the XIX Century. The work surely caused a stir in Spain at the time of its creation, meeting with the harsh disapproval of the Church. It was painted for the Gaspar de Guzmán, Count of Olivares, the Prime Minister of King Philip IV of Spain and, in 1651, it is documented as being in the collection of the son of the Prime Minister, reserved to the pleasure of a tight circle in order to avoid the wrath of the Spanish Inquisition.
Samantha De Martin - © 2020 ARTE.it for Bulgari Hotel London