Cover image for Venus at her mirror : Velazquez and the art of nude painting
Venus at her mirror : Velazquez and the art of nude painting
Prater, Andreas.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Munich : Prestel, [2002]

Physical Description:
133 pages : many illustrations (chiefly color), 1 folded plates ; 29 x 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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ND813.V4 P7313 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

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The seventeenth century saw a tremendous thematic and technical development in the realm of painting as artists experimented with realism and anatomical exactitude, and gave free expression to themes of sensuality. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Velazquez? Venus at Her Mirror, also known as The Rokeby Venus. In this absorbing and comprehensive study Andreas Prater uses the much-studied and imitated painting to trace Venus's depiction in art through the centuries.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

As these two books demonstrate, the female nude still inspires artists and scholars. In her personal "collection" of representations, graphic designer Ferrara (European Instit. of Design, Milan) sets forth over 129 colorful reproductions of reclining female nudes in an enlarged, horizontal, chronological arrangement, spanning Western art history from the Renaissance to the present. Her book showcases mainly European masterpieces of the early 20th century that are located in public art collections. Predominately graphic, the book also offers a brief author's note and a two-page introduction by Frances Borzello, a leading art historian in the field of female portraits. Whereas Ferrara's study mostly delights the eyes with a variety of images, many of which shaped the art historical canon, Prater's work provides intellectual enticement with 40 issues-oriented chapters covering all aspects of the first known female nude in Spanish painting. Prater (Freiburg Univ., Germany) argues that Diego Velazquez's Venus at her Mirror (the Rokeby Venus) constitutes a polysemic representation of the goddess rather than of a nude woman. To make his point, Prater compares the artist's painting to similar subjects by Titian, Paolo Veronese, Annibale Carracci, Peter Paul Rubens, and other Renaissance masters, among them Botticelli and Bellini. Prater further attempts to contextualize the work within the era of the Spanish Inquisition by linking it to the ancient Roman literary tradition that was revived and adapted in Italian art of the 15th and 16th centuries. Referring to later painting, including Goya's Naked and Clothed Majas, Prater reasserts the seminal nature of Vel zquez's masterpiece. Well documented and illustrated with 63 color and 15 black-and-white images, this translation from German includes some spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, leaps of the imagination, and hasty references to other images and texts. Still, while the author's viewpoint and methodological approach may not convince entirely, they significantly add to the art historical literature. Both publications are recommended for academic libraries, but owing to its mainly visual nature, Ferrara's compilation may be suited best for applied arts or gallery collections.-Cheryl Ann Lajos, Free Lib. of Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Velazquez's reclining female nude, known as Venus at Her Mirror or the Rokeby Venus (National Gallery of Art, London), is an exceptional painting for both Velazquez and for Spain during the Counter-Reformation, when pictures of such nudes were officially prohibited. Prater, in a lavishly illustrated volume, has written some 40 brief, essay-like chapters on the painting and its power, both sensual and intellectual. Although the author could not settle questions about the origin of the painting, he explains how it fits in with an Italian tradition of wedding pictures, and that in turn strengthens the argument that it was produced for a Spanish patron while Velazquez was in Rome from 1649 to 1950. The early history of the painting is fascinating in itself, but the greater part of the book concerns interpretation of the theme, pictorial components, compositional structure, and technique. That Venus is shown from the back, for example, and that her reflection in the mirror is so hazy, both lead to a fine discussion of the accessibility of divine beauty to the human eye and mind. There is much worth thinking about as well as to see in this compact monograph. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through faculty. C. W. Talbot Trinity University