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The Toilet of Venus ('The Rokeby Venus')
Diego Velázquez
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Venus, the goddess of love, reclines languidly on her bed, the curve of her body echoed in the sweep of sumptuous satin fabric. The pearly tones of her smooth skin contrast with the rich colours and lively brushstrokes of the curtain and sheets.

Venus‘ face is reflected in the mirror held up by her son, Cupid, but her reflection is blurred – we can’t see who she really is. Perhaps Velázquez wanted to make sure that Venus – the personification of female beauty – was not an identifiable person; we have to ‘complete’ her features with our imagination. Cupid’s face and far leg are very loosely painted and appear almost unfinished: Velázquez deliberately used a sketchy style in order to focus our attention on Venus.

This is Velázquez’s only surviving female nude and one of his most celebrated works. Its nickname, ‘The Rokeby Venus’, originates from Rokeby Park, a country house in County Durham, where the painting hung for much of the nineteenth century.

Key facts
Artist Diego Velázquez
Artist dates 1599 - 1660
Full title The Toilet of Venus ('The Rokeby Venus')
Date made 1647-51
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 122.5 x 177 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by the Art Fund, 1906
Inventory number NG2057
Location in Gallery Room 30
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