The topic for this research project is to compare Titian’s realistic and ideal female subjects in portraiture. Generalizing women to find the ideal beauty had long been a theme in art, specifically portraiture. In the 16th century, Titian investigated this idea with allegorical female images to represent the abstract notion of beauty with broad titles alongside his commissioned works which were specifically named after the sitter. Some examples of these works are Woman with a Mirror (1512-15), La Bella (1536-38), Girl with a Fur Coat (ca. 1535), Eleanora Gonzaga della Rovere (1536-38), Empress Isabella d’Este in Black (1534-36), and Giulia Varano, Duchess of Urbino (1545-47). The position of this paper is that Titian entitled certain female portraits with an individual’s name because the subject was an unambiguous true rendition, while presented other female depictions with a generic allegorical title because he was portraying an ideal beauty.
In order to develop this project, I plan to first define portraiture including its history and purpose for 16th-century Venetian artists. Before comparing the portraits and allegories, I will examine Giorgione’s Laura (1506) because this portrayal influenced Titan’s experimentation with realistic and ideal portraiture; identifying who Laura is as a subject is pertinent. The main point of comparison will be focused around the contrast between the composed and demure portrait, and the attractive qualities of an ideal youthful beauty. When conducting the comparisons I will explore gender roles to define the 16th-century ideal woman, the significance of portraiture to family life, and the symbolism of attributes and attire.