Duke Francesco Maria della Rovere is poisoned in 1538. His son Guidobaldo II is 24 years old. The artist completes his portrait of the late Duke and creates on a commission from his successor the Venere di Urbino, one of the greatest masterpieces of art.
The Venus of Urbino is not a goddess of eroticism but of fertility. A pleasant belief assured that a woman will grow a beautiful child if she sees in the bridal chamber a picture of splendid nudes. This tradition fed the imagery of the Florentine wedding chests of the Renaissance. The new duchess Giulia, aged just 15, is a virgin.
Duchess Giulia died in 1547 leaving no male heir to Duke Guidobaldo, who remarried and finally had a son who was to succeed him in 1574. This happy event brings the Duke to desire a new portrait by Titian. This artwork completed in 1553 is estimated £ 2M for sale by Christie's in London on July 7, lot 35.
This oil on canvas 198 x 113 cm shows the Duke and his son standing life size next to one another. Titian enters the extreme creative freedom of his later career and deliberately forgets that according to the good tradition full length portraits should be reserved for the sovereigns.
The Duke is an austere bearded man but his four year old son evokes the permanence of the dynasty, raising his head to look to the future and to his father. The vow of the 1538 Donna nuda was met.