The Reclining Venus, a lively sculpture by Lorenzo Bartolini, was created after the famous painting, titled The Venus of Urbino, by the Italian painter Titian. Considered one of the most important Renaissance paintings and at the same time the iconic version of a reclining female nude, The Venus of Urbino is often cited as the origin of many controversial images of Western art, which include the famous Naked Maja, by the Spanish romantic painter Francisco Goya. Now housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, it was also one of the inspirations for the French modernist painter Édouard Manet's Olympia in which the figure of Venus is replaced with the model Victorine Meurent, an accomplished painter in her own right, who later became his wife.
Perhaps commissioned by Lord Robert Castlereagh, the Marquis of Londonderry in 1820, the finely carved female nude in marble, titled The Reclining Venus, by the Italian sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini, was also created after Titan’s Venus of Urbino.
Born in Prato, Tuscany on 7 January 1777, Lorenzo Bartolini was reckoned as the leading Italian sculptor after the death of Canova in 1822. He brewed neoclassicism with naturalistic detail while drawing inspiration from the sculptures of the Florentine Renaissance. After completing his studies in Florentine Academy of Fine Arts, he moved to Paris in 1797 where he studied painting under Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Desmarais, and then sculpture under François-Frédéric Lemot, a French Neoclassical sculptor.
After his colouful early career in Paris, executing some important Napoleonic commissions, he settled in Florentine in 1815.
While in Florentine, Lorenzo Bartolini lived with Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, a French Neoclassical painter, and his wife, from 1820 to 1824.For creating the sculpture of a reclining nude female figure, he took the help of his friend Ingres and obtained for him the permission of the Uffizi Gallery to copy Titian’s Venus of Urbino, housed in the Pitti Palace. The copied version of Ingres is of the same size as the original and served as a model for his close friend Bartolini to create a marble sculpture on the same subject, which is now exhibited at the Fabre Museum in Montpellier in France.
Carved in marble after one of the most famous paintings in the world, The Reclining Venus, sculptured by Lorenzo Bartolini, depicts the relaxed figure of a sleeping female nude with long flowing hair, her head tilted to her right, and her soft body leaning on the same side, supported by her bent right arm on a pillow. With her left leg crossed over the right, she is lying on her comfortable bed placed on a rectangular base in a heavily draped chaise lounge.
The creamy white marble used by the artist has perfectly brought to life the sense of the softness, warmth, and silkiness of her young skin. The beautiful marble sculpture, depicting the sleeping beauty with all her feminine grace, her glistening skin, uncovered breasts with firm nipples, exposed belly button, and innocent expression, reflects the unworried and tranquil state of her mind, which is the highlight of the timeless sculpture.