The characters of Venus and Adonis and the relationship between them became the subject for such drawings as Venus and Adonis by Titian and Venus and Adonis by Peter Paul Rubens. Venus and Adonis by Titian were created in 1553. It depicts the goddess and her lover. However, the peculiarity of this painting is that it shows the goddess as the victim of love that is opposed to her accepted role. Venus and Adonis by Peter Paul Rubens were probably created in mid-1630. The peculiarity of this painting is that Venus is depicted as weak before Cupid’s arrows and immediately falls in love with Adonis. Consequently, this paper intends to compare Venus and Adonis by Titian and Venus and Adonis by Peter Paul Rubens to establish the similarities and differences between them.
The similarity between pictures refers to the choice of the subject and the medium of depiction. Thus, both pictures borrow the plot from Metamorphoses by Ovid. Moreover, the medium of depiction is oil on canvas that makes them more colorful and vivid. Another similarity is that both painters address the same characters, Adonis and Venus. However, the way of their depiction is totally different; one can explain this by the differences in the painters' perception of these personages and the time of creation. One should mention that both Titian and Peter Paul Rubens see Venus as a weak personality who can easily fall in love. The difference between Rubens’ Venus and Titian’s Venus is in the character of Venus. Ruben’s Venus is tender, romantic, weak, and very feminine. It means that the author empowered her with feminine qualities. Titian’s Venus is rather masculine than feminine; therefore, the author depicts her as violent and aggressive in the attempt to win Adonis’ heart (The J. Paul Getty Museum 1).
Another difference between the paintings is predetermined by the periods of their creation. Venus and Adonis by Titian refer to Renaissance art. Thus, his painting is realistic and classical as it is characterized by simplicity in colors, balance in the characters’ relationships, and clarity that are typical of the art of the Renaissance (Rearick 2). Another feature of this painting is physical realism as Venus and Adonis are depicted as usual people without heavenly feelings. Venus and Adonis by Peter Paul Rubens belong to the Baroque period; therefore, it is characterized by a rich drama between the characters. Consequently, viewers can see more emotions and feelings between characters. Moreover, it differs from Titian’s painting in the usage of colors. Thus, Titian uses gloomy and calm colors while Rubens is not afraid to experiment with colors making them bright and very expressive (The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1).
It is evident that both drawings reflect the periods in which they were created. Thus, Titian’s Venus and Adonis is characterized by mannerism that proves that the artist wants to create the complexity in images and relationships between Venus and Adonis. Ruben’s Venus and Adonis expresses sensuality as well as intense and dramatic relationships between the characters. It is obvious that Titian depicts the course of events with the help of the characters’ movements. Rubens pays much more attention to the characters’ feelings and emotions. There is some distortion of human anatomy in Titian’s Venus and Adonis, which is one of the features of Renaissance art. On the contrary, Ruben’s painting shows idealized bodies that provide strong emotional content (Freedberg 32).
Another difference between the paintings refers to their composition. As to the element of unity, it is necessary to say that all the parts of both paintings belong together. While Titian’s picture shows Venus and Adonis as the central objects, Rubens’ picture adds Cupid in the center. Thus, such composition changes the viewers’ vision of the dramatic relationships between characters. As Titian’s artwork refers to the Renaissance period, it means that the author focuses his attention on the composition as the element differing from other artists. As to Rubens, his painting is based on naturalism; therefore, his composition is less structured than Titian’s. The similarity between the analyzed paintings is that they both provide a sense of movement between Adonis and Venus. Thus, this makes the pictures dynamic and dramatic. Another element of the composition is rhythm. Both paintings are rhythmic and harmonic. Titians use calm and gloomy colors repeating them in the smallest details. As to Rubens, he plays with bright colors combining them harmoniously in the foreground and background.
As to the treatment of space, it also displays a difference between both paintings. As to Titian, there is no spare place in the picture as the objects are large. Titian is passionate about depicting the physical world around Adonis and Venus accurately. It means that the artist pays attention to the characters rather than to other details. In contrast, Rubens provides spare space; therefore, his painting looks like a story that is dynamic and has a conclusion. In addition, naturalism is typical of Rubens’ treatment of space. Consequently, one can refer both artists to lovers of the classical painters as there are no crucial differences in such elements as space and composition.
The focus in Titian’s picture is on Adonis and Venus. Thus, the author wants to show that their attitude to each other depends on them. In Ruben’s painting, this focus is shifted towards Adonis, Cupids, and Venus. Thus, Rubens diminishes the value of Venus as a goddess showing her as a simple person who can fall in love. In Titian’s painting, there is some degree of contrast between the grey sky and dark green trees; however, it is not intense. In Rubens’ painting, this contrast is more evident as the artist uses bright colors wherein white and red contrast with black.
It is necessary to say that Titian experiments less with the light and colors following the classical canons of art. The prevailing colors here are green, red, and brown. However, they are gloomy as if the author intends not to distract the viewers’ attention from the personalities of Adonis and Venus. It means that Titian’s painting has a limited degree of physical realism due to his focus on the mythological subject. It is evident that Titian simplifies all the details and does not want to distract the viewers from the overall sense of simplicity, harmony, and balance. As to Rubens, he plays with colors and light; therefore, his painting is more vivid and colorful. The thematic use of light and shade constructs this work as the unity of nature and the relationship between Adonis and Venus.
In conclusion, it is important to point out that Venus and Adonis by Titian and Venus and Adonis by Peter Paul Rubens have many similarities and differences. The similarities refer to the choice of the subject, the medium of depiction, and the orientation on Metamorphoses by Ovid. However, the differences between them are related to the periods when they were created that predetermined the way of depiction and application of artistic techniques. Consequently, Titian’s painting follows the classical canons of art, is characterized by simplicity, physical realism, and the overall sense of balance. As to Rubens, he is not afraid to experiment with light, color, composition, and contrast. Thus, his painting is characterized by sensuality, depth of feelings, and violation of classical canons dictated by the Renaissance.