Amor sacro e amor profano (sacred and profane love)

Titian | Amor sacro e amor profano | sacred and profane love


Amor sacro e amor profano (Sacred and profane love). Titian was one of the most important Renaissance artists, and his works entered the most prestigious private and public art collections in the world.
Among them there was Cardinal Scipione Borghese’s art collection.
In 1608 he bought Titian’s most mysterious painting, known as Amor sacro e amor profano (Sacred and profane love).

In this post I will explain you why.

Amor sacro e amor profano | Titian

Amor sacro e amor profano (Sacred and profane love) is currently housed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome, and several hypotheses about its meaning have been made.
According to the most realistic and plausible hypothesis, the painting is an allegory of two kinds of love: vulgar love represented by the naked woman, and celestial love represented by the clothed woman.
The two women are sitting on a fountain, which is actually a sarcophagus, full of water, where a child Cupid is immersing his arm, maybe to represent his mediation between the women and the two kinds of love.
This painting was commissioned in 1514, on the occasion of the marriage between the important Venetian politician Niccolò Aurelio and the Paduan widow Laura Bagarotto, whose coats of arms appear on the sarcophagus.

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Actually, this painting is plenty of symbols and their reading is complex.
For example, on the background, there are two different landscape, one side is dark, while the other side is brighter; a couple of rabbits on the right is the symbol of fertility, but the violent images of the sarcophagus make you think about an event the spouses shared.
Laura, in fact, was the daughter of a Paduan jurist sentenced to death in 1509 as a traitor to the Republic of Venice, exactly when her husband was a member of the most important governing body of Venice, the Consiglio dei Dieci (the Council of Ten).
Therefore, the clothed woman could be Laura, the bride, whereas the child Cupid would be the indispensable mediation in order to bring peace to the two families, and permit this marriage, also with the help of Venus, who is the woman on the right holding the lamp.

Nobody knows for certain what the meaning of Amor sacro e amor profano (Sacred and profane love) is, but its mystery makes it even more fascinating. 

amor sacro e amor profano | Galleria Borghese | Museums in Rome

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2 thoughts on “Amor sacro e amor profano (sacred and profane love)

  1. This is an incorrect interpretation. The naked woman in no way represents “vulgar” love, where in the world did you get this idea? Profane love is the clothed bride ias she represents worldly possesions and materialism. Sacred love is represented as the naked woman, symbolized by the incense which is the medium to the spiritual or “sacred” world. Venus, Mars and Vulcan are represented allegorically on the sarcophagus and thus is thought to be an image drawn from the 1499 incunable Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.
    There is absolutely no representation of the vulgar in this masterwork and I felt most compelled to write this as this is indeed a wonderfully mysterious painting which you were able to recount some of the details correctly but this fundamental error needs to be rectified. Hope you appreciate the input.

    • Thank you. This is a very beautiful painting but with a muster interpretation. Certainly the client had requested a refined work in which to insert numerous meanings.
      Cretely, this is a work that, like Giorgione’s Tempest, will cause students to study and discuss for many centuries.

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