In his “Venus at a Mirror” Paul Rubens presents the nude beauty of the goddess of Love, Venus. The artist portrays the goddess of love from a back view, seated in the center of his composition. An adolescent cupid is presented in the left foreground, holding a mirror with the reflection of Venus’ face on its surface, while a dark-skinned, exotic handmaid fills the upper right of the painting fondling the golden hair of the Venus. The three figures form a lunette that emphasizes the mirror that frames Venus face like a portrait. The viewer follows this lunette once his attention has been caught by the nude female body and then the eyes move from the handmaid to the female body again and the adolescent cupid; this lunette underlines the mirror and its portrait.
The goddess of Love looks outward at the spectator through her reflected image in the mirror and wears only a thin white drapery, painted as if it has been fallen to reveal the physical beauty of her naked body. The folds of this fine white drapery are rendered to emphasize the curves of her body and the warm, smooth skin. Rubens uses mainly shades of white, cream and yellow tones to depict the softness of Venus’ skin. This light color of her skin contrasts with the dark background of the painting. The sensual presentation of her smooth, bright skin and the silky golden hair are further enlivened by another contrast with the dark-skinned handmaid who stands beside her. Venus’ golden accessories, otherwise decorative additions to elaborate clothing, emphasize her nudity. The facial expression of Venus reflected in the mirror reveal pride and self confidence. She is the ultimate symbol of beauty and she knows it. She is aware of the viewer in a mirror. The mirror presents a face that is so well constructed, so perfectly harmonious that invites the spectator to enjoy its youth and beauty.
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