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Feb 10, 2013

Sacred and Profane Love. Some key facts.

Sacred and Profane Love - 1515 (Borghese Gallery)

Undoubtedly one of the most mysterious paintings in art history. There are so many interpretations and the painting still remains an enigma.
  • Listed as Beauty Adorned and Unadorned when purchased by Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1608) only in a later inventory (1693) it's referred to as Sacred and Profane Love.
  • Painted by a young Titian it had to be a marriage gift commissioned by Niccolò Aurelio  for his future bride Laura Bagarotto.  A difficult proposal though since he was a member of the Venetian Council of Ten who had sentenced Laura's father to death for treason. 
  • The sarcophagus is an allusion to death but also a symbol of life since it contains water (the hope that can follow such a tragic event). 
  • Contrary to what we might think the naked woman represents Sacred Love (divine Love doesn't need any adornment).
  • For the 20th century art historian Friedländer the 2 women are Polia and Venere, two characters in Francesco Colonna’s popular 1499 romance Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Poliphilus' Dream).
  • The painting could more simply show the bride Laura Bagarotto and a sensual Venus teaching Laura what love is like. 
  • In 1899 the Rotschilds intended to buy the painting at a price that was higher than the estimated value of the entire Villa Borghese and all its works of art (4,000,000 Lire as opposed to 3,600,000 Lire).