enter, and proceed to that most-visited little gallery that exists in the
world--the Tribune--and there, against the wall, without obstructing rag or
leaf, you may look your fill upon the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest
picture the world possesses--Titian's Venus. It isn't that she is naked and
stretched out on a bed--no, it is the attitude of one of her arms and hand. If
I ventured to describe that attitude, there would be a fine howl--but there
the Venus lies, for anybody to gloat over that wants to--and there she has a
right to lie, for she is a work of art, and Art has its privileges. I saw
young girls stealing furtive glances at her; I saw young men gaze long and
absorbedly at her; I saw aged, infirm men hang upon her charms with a pathetic
interest. How I should like to describe her--just to see what a holy
indignation I could stir up in the world--just to hear the unreflecting
average man deliver himself about my grossness and coarseness, and all that.
The world says that no worded description of a moving spectacle is a hundredth
part as moving as the same spectacle seen with one's own eyes--yet the world
is willing to let its son and its daughter and itself look at Titian's beast,
but won't stand a description of it in words. Which shows that the world is
not as consistent as it might be.
pictures of nude women which suggest no impure thought--I am well aware of
that. I am not railing at such. What I am trying to emphasize is the fact that
Titian's Venus is very far from being one of that sort. Without any question
it was painted for a bagnio and it was probably refused because it was a
trifle too strong. In truth, it is too strong for any place but a public Art
Gallery. Titian has two Venuses in the Tribune; persons who have seen them
will easily remember which one I am referring to."
And just in case you're wondering, here's the other Titian Venus in the
Uffizi. Venus and Cupid with a partridge. I think I can see
which one Mark wain means.