Building off of the visual analysis skills you practiced in your museum paper, you will write a Comparison Paper. Select a pair of artworks from the list below and write a 3-page (typed, double spaced, 12pt font) comparison.

Comparison Paper Guidelines

Building off of the visual analysis skills you practiced in your museum paper, you will write a Comparison Paper. Select a pair of artworks from the list below and write a 3-page (typed, double spaced, 12pt font) comparison.

The only outside sources you should use are your textbook and class notes. This is not a research paper, so do not consult other sources. You are expected to construct your own analysis, derived from what you see and what you have learned in this course. Your paper should be well organized, proof-read, and should include proper citations referencing the textbook.

Your paper should begin with an introduction that includes a clear and easily identifiable thesis. The body of your paper should include a well-organized and thoughtful visual description of your two objects that compares the works in thoughtful ways. While your analysis will be predominantly formal, be sure to consider historical context in your comparison. It is highly recommended that you review the guidelines provided for the museum paper, as well as the sample comparison that is included at the end of this document. Your paper should end with a conclusion that ties back to your thesis in a thoughtful way.


Comparison List:

· Heironymous Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights, 1503-1515 and Henri Matisse, Bonheur de Vivre, 1905-1906

· Artemisia Gentileschi, Self Portrait as Allegory of Painting, 1638-1639 and Vigee Le Brun, Self-Portrait, 1790

· Juan Sanchez Cotan, Still Life with Game Fowl, 1600-1603, Pablo Picasso Still Life with Chair-Caning, 1912

· Michelangelo Pieta, 1498-99 and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Ugolino and his Children, 1870

· Bronzino, 1544-1545, Eladora of Toledo and Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, 1906




Sample Comparison


Introduction with thesis statement

Description of Titian’s Venus (in light of the thesis)

Description of Manet’s Olympia with focus on the similarities with and differences to Venus




Titian, Venus of Urbino and Eduard Manet, Olympia


While Titian’s Venus of Urbino and Eduard Manet’s Olympia both display a naked woman in similar settings and arrangements, they convey different notions of sexuality and female agency.


Titian’s Venus lies on a bed that stretches almost the entire width in the foreground of the horizontal canvas. Even though the woman is slightly smaller than life size, the canvas measures 119 x 165 cm, she appears monumental, an effect resulting from the low viewpoint, due to which spectators look up to Venus. The Goddess of Love returns the gaze with a hint of a smile. Her head is not aligned with the upper body, suggesting that she turns around to actively responds to our presence. Venus’s corpse is also slightly twisting. Two large pillows raise her upper body, which rests on her right lower arm. As a consequence, her chest revolves into our direction, even though she pushes her left shoulder back. This creates a tension in her upper body due to which her left breast can be seen in profile while the right appears frontally. Because she tucks her right under the extended left leg her hip is lifted, exposing her private parts, on which she places the hand of her left arm. At her feet sleeps a lap dog on the disheveled white sheets. The dog creates a transition to the background, which on the right side of the composition offers a view into a spacious room, brightly illuminated by a large window in the back, in which two handmaidens search something in two chests standing against the wall on the floor.


The open space with the handmaidens creates a contrast to the intimate space occupied by the naked Venus in the foreground, with its heavy green curtain shielding the view directly behind her upper body. While no attributes or symbols actually identify her as the Goddess of Love (the title was given to the painting not by Titian but by later generations), her entire appearance signifies sensuality. This is the result not only of her nakedness but also of Titian’s style and rendering. Thus, the side of her body resting on the bed creates a soft curve that the left leg and arm complete into separate circle-like shapes, leading to a closed, harmonious body shape that is only disrupted by her gaze out of the composition. As a consequence of the blurred contours, Venus blends into her surrounding, further increasing the sense of harmony in addition to contributing to the overall sensation of softness. This softness not only results from the curves of her body and her unblemished, smooth skin but also from her silky blond hair which caresses her naked skin, just like the feet that cuddle each other and the hand on her genitals. The resulting sense of touch is increased by the flower bouquet, which the woman squeezes gently with her right hand. Even the soft linen with its multitude of folds contributes to the powerful sensation of softness and sensuality. In fact, throughout the composition, Titian has used warm colors with similar saturation to create little contrasts and tie the entire picture into one harmonious unit.


To no small degree, then, the picture’s sensuality is a result of Titian’s painting technique and not just an attribute of the depicted woman. In fact, Titian’s Venus does not lend herself to voyeuristic pleasure and (misogynist) fantasies of male dominance. Instead, Titian gives her a certain degree of power. Her calmness and active gaze indicates not only that she is fully aware of our presence but also not disturbed by it. In fact, the dog simply continues to sleep and she, rather than covering casually rests the hand on her genitals, which she actively presents to viewers. She is not simply an object of desire but an agent in charge of her sexuality, as it is appropriate for the Goddess of Love.


Manet’s Olympia, instead, turns aggressive by replacing Venus’s sensuality with sexuality. She also rests on a bed that extends over the entire width of the canvas and even though she is actually smaller than Titian’s Venus gains in status because she is raised further up. Unlike Venus, she is not lying down but sitting, her head held in an almost vertical position. Rather than turning around to welcome spectators, which is the conceit of Titian’s Venus, Olympia stares down at us from a stable position as if she were expecting visitors. The curves of her body and its contours appear harder, her lower body is not turned to spectators and the hand firmly covers her genitals. Titian’s sense of harmony and soft tactility is almost entirely missing, which also is a result of the harder contours, colder colors, and stronger contrasts, which help to situate Olympia in space and lend her a powerful physical presence that strongly differs from that of Titian’s dreamy Venus.


All of these are elements that equip Manet’s Olympia with an aggressive sexuality. In fact, not only is Olympia not smiling but the black cat that replaces Titian’s sleeping lap dog fiercely turns to spectators, highlighting that we are unfamiliar visitors. At the same time, Olympia’s calmness, confident gaze and unashamed nakedness imply that our presence does not surprise her. In fact, there can be little doubt about the woman’s status. Titian’s green curtain covers the entire background, creating an intimate space with (almost) no opening to suggest that we are facing a boudoir and the flowers, which Venus gently caresses are presented to the woman by a black maid, the implication being that we are not Olympia’s sole suitors.


Thus, Titian and Manet both display a naked woman interacting with (presumably male) spectators. Yet, in Titian that exchange seems friendly and warm, facilitating the male fantasy of reciprocal desire, while in Manet the distant and cold rendering reveals its harsh economic reality. Both women are powerful, but Venus uses her agency to seduce spectators, whereas Olympia actively reduces sensuality to sexuality.

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