About this artwork

The two younger women would have been recognised immediately by contemporaries as courtesans. Their elaborately braided hair cascades over their bare shoulders, and the central figure's unfastened bodice is sensually provocative. She admires her reflection in the mirror held by older woman with a darker complexion, who may be their procuress. The mirror also alludes, however, to the transience of physical beauty. The ornate character of the box-like interior contributes to the painting's spatial ambiguity and its decorative appearance. It was probably painted for a wealthy Venetian patron.

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  • title: Venetian Women at their Toilet
  • accession number: NG 10
  • artist: Paris BordonItalian (1500 - 1571)
  • gallery: On Loan
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Beauty Italian Renaissance
  • materials: Oil on canvas
  • date created: About 1545
  • measurements: 97.00 x 141.00 cm (framed: 131.40 x 175.40 x 10.00 cm)
  • credit line: Purchased by the Royal Institution 1830; transferred to the National Gallery of Scotland 1859
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Paris Bordon

Paris Bordon

Bordon's painting combines the rich colour of Venetian painters with the consciously ornate compositions of mannerist artists. He was born in Treviso but trained in Venice, possibly in Titian's studio. He came across the central Italian mannerist style through artists such as Vasari, who came to Venice to work on various projects. Apart from some years in Milan and at the French court in Fontainbleau, Bordon spent most of his working life in Venice, before retiring to Treviso. He painted some religious subjects but his mildly erotic secular paintings secured his international reputation.