My supposed career as an artist's model

The Goddess Years
Venus with a Mirror
Titian is generally ranked with Michaelangelo and Raphael as the greatest painter of the High Renaissance. But whereas Michaelangelo perfected the masculine ideal, Titian's genius was most conspicuous in his female subjects, and his sumptuous representations of femininity have never been equaled. Titian found inspiration in a lovely fair-haired model, who personified for him the very acme of feminine beauty. The identity of this model is uncertain, but she is often judged the most beautiful woman in history. He first painted her in Venus with a Mirror (right) which ranks as Titian's supreme masterwork. The artist was so attached to this painting that could never bear to sell it, and it remained with him until his death. Unlike the earlier works, in Venus with a Mirror Titian's voluptuous model adopts the classical pose known as the Venus Pudica, or "modest Venus" But Titian contrasts the traditional modesty of the pose with the unmistakable pleasure in her own appearance that the goddess exhibits as she looks into the mirror as if her luxurious charms are so wondrous that she herself is forced to pause and catch her breath in awe.
Peter Paul Rubens
Venus before the Mirror
The image shown here is the greatest depiction of female beauty in Western art. The subject of the love goddess entranced by her own reflection was a commonplace in the Renaissance and Baroque eras, and Titian's Venus with a Mirror (above) was considered the very pinnacle of the genre. This painting so captivated Rubens that he made a nearly literal copy for himself which, however, fell short of Titian's mastery. But in the subsequent Venus before the Mirror shown here, Rubens reinterpreted and personalized the theme according to the spirit of the Northern Baroque, and in doing so transcended his predecessor's achievement. Rubens's Venus is more humanized than Titian's. Her figure is even fuller and more curvaceous, her unbound golden tresses cascade freely down her back, and she gazes, not upon her own reflection, but on the effect that her beauty has upon the viewer.
Peter Paul Rubens
The Union of Earth and Water
The four elements, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, were considered to be fundamental elements of the world contents, and were usually depicted as classical gods and goddesses. Earth is personified by Demeter (Ceres); Water is personified by a river god; Air is usually represented by Hera (Juno); Fire is represented by Hephestus (Vulcan) or may be depicted as a woman with her head in flames.
Sandro Botticelli
The Birth of Venus
The action of the picture is quickly understood. Venus has emerged from the sea on a shell which is driven to the shore by flying wind-gods amidst a shower of roses. As she is about to step on to the land, one of the Hours or Nymphs receives her with a purple cloak. Botticelli's Venus is so beautiful that we do not notice the unnatural length of her neck, the steep fall of her shoulders and the queer way her left arm is hinged to the body. Or, rather, we should say that these liberties which Botticelli took with nature in order to achieve a graceful outline add to the beauty and harmony of the design because they enhance the impression of an infinitely tender and delicate being, wafted to our shores as a gift from Heaven.
Alexandre Cabanel
The Birth of Venus
This painting was the hit of the controversial Salon of 1863. While crowds were dismayed by Manet's Olympia with her direct gaze and unacceptable standards of modeling and composition, Cabanel's Venus has all the refined eroticism that was expected by Salon-goers of the time. She is idealized and devoid of any blemish or body hair. She is sexually passive, characterless, and more perfect than is possible. Surrounded by masses of luxuriant hair, she is the ultimate male fantasy, voluptuous yet chaste, as well as accommodating. Her form, a brilliant performance of draftsmanship and careful, systematic modeling, is the nineteenth century's version of ancient and Renaissance styles.
John Millais
This shows Ophelia floating down the river into which she has cast herself, feeling rejected by Hamlet. Her hair fans out in the stream, a necklace of violets around her neck and a loose bouquet of many different flowers drifting away from her slightly raised hands. All of these in Victorian flower lore contain meaning or are mentioned by Shakespeare in Hamlet. The plants on the riverbank show a typical selection of flowers and plants from an English summer hedgerow, all painted in precise detail. After casting around for a suitable location for the painting, he finally chose a quiet spot on the Hogsmill River (a tributary of the Thames) at Ewell in Surrey. Much of the walk was painted outdoors on the riverbank, greatly to the annoyance of a pair of swans who disputed the territory and drove Millais to near distraction.
John William Waterhouse
A Mermaid
As a part of Waterhouse's diploma work for the Royal Academy of Arts, A Mermaid is one of his "most delicate conceptions, and understandably he had lingered long in bringing it to perfection."


Other Models I have worked with

John William Waterhouse
In the play within the play, Shakespeare features the Thisbe and Pyramus romance. The scene is based on the ancient story about Thisbe and Pyramus whose parents forbid them seeing each other. They exchanged wedding vows through a crack in the wall between their gardens.

Copyright © 2001, Ragani Harris. All rights reserved.
Last revised: April 12, 2001