Sacred and Profane Love by Titian
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The work has spurred significant discussion for the ambiguous identities of the two women pictured. Venus appears semi-nude and engaged with her counterpart, yet the other woman is turned away from Venus. She stares directly at the viewer. Her dress is very formal and complete with fitted gloves. For centuries historians have debated which woman is represented as sacred and which profane.
The background speaks to the characters of both women as well. Behind the dressed woman a castle looms and is illuminated by almost divine light. A pastoral scene plays out behind Venus. A farmer tends to his flock, but nobles from the castle scene are pictured entering the area while engaged in a hunt. A cityscape and church is visible in front of a great body of water.
Between the two women a child angel plays in the water. That the sarcophagus is used as a fountain instead of a tomb is another instance of opposing energies at work within the piece. Scipione Borghese acquired the painting in 1608. It is housed with the rest of his collection in the Galleria Borghese in Rome.