Titian Paints "Sacred and Profane Love"

Sacred and Profane Love (also called Venus and the Bride) is an oil painting by Titian, painted around 1513-1514.

The painting was commissioned by Niccolò Aurelio, a secretary to the Venetian Council of Ten (so identified because his coat of arms appears on the sarcophagus or fountain in the centre of the image) to celebrate his marriage to a young widow, Laura Bagarotto. It depicts the bride dressed in white sitting beside Cupid and being assisted by Venus in person. The figure with the vase of jewels symbolizes "fleeting happiness on earth"; and the one bearing the burning flame of God's love symbolizes "eternal happiness in heaven".

The first record of the work under its popular title is in an inventory of 1693, although scholars now discredit the theory that the two female figures are personifications of the Neoplatonic concepts of sacred and profane love. The art historian Walter Friedländer outlined similarities between the painting and Francesco Colonna's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and proposed that the two figures represented Polia and Venere, the two female characters in the 1499 romance. It has been suggested that the scholar Pietro Bembo devised the allegorical scheme.

The work was bought in 1608 by the art patron Scipione Borghese and is currently housed with other works from the Borghese collection in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. In 1899, the Rothschilds' offer to buy the work from the gallery for 4 million Lira (greater than the whole Galleria Borghese building and collections, then valued at 3,600,000 Lira) was refused.

Titian’s enigmatic allegory Sacred and Profane Love (around 1514) serves as a nice illustration of simplified Botticelli’s mystical narration enrolled by the conjoined Birth of Venus and La Primavera. Titian’s composition addresses straightforwardly Botticelli’s two main protagonists, the Ficinian Twin Venuses (Geminae Veneres) and a young Cupid stirring the water in the sarcophagus/fountain is also not omitted. If Botticelli’s analogy is followed than the nude figure is the heavenly or philosophical Venus while the other is her terrestrial counterpart.