The Disarming Beauty of Venus de Milo
Venus de Milo is one of the most well-known examples of ancient Greek sculpture in the world today and is often thought to be the most beautiful. The statue is believed to be a depiction of Venus, the Greek goddess of love and beauty but is also sometimes called Aphrodite of Melos, referring to the corresponding goddess of Roman mythology. Slightly over six feet tall and composed of highly prized white parian marble, Venus de Milo stands in a gracefully curved pose with her weight resting upon one leg, clothed only by a loose drape about her hips that falls to the ground.
Although Venus de Milo appears to be a mixture of styles from the Greek Classical period, it has been dated at about 130 BC, indicating it was created in the Hellenistic period, more than a hundred years later. The statue is generally thought to be the work of Alexandros of Antioch, based upon an inscription on the missing piece of what may have been its original pedestal.
Venus de Milo was discovered accidentally in 1820 by a Greek peasant named Yourgos on the Aegean island of Melos in an underground cavern near the ruins of an ancient theatre. Yourgos kept the sculpture to himself for a while in his barn but eventually it was discovered by Turkish authorities and confiscated. The French ambassador to Turkey bought the statue and after it was repaired, presented it in 1821 to King Louis XVIII of France. Subsequently the King had the sculpture placed in the Louvre Museum in Paris where it has remained on display to this day.
When the statue was discovered, it was badly damaged and broken into two parts. Found along with the statue were a pedestal, a piece of an upper left arm, and a left hand holding an apple. It is unclear if these fragments belonged to the statue and they have since been lost. While in King Louis' possession, attempts were made to create a design to replace the missing arms. Arms which held apples, lamps, garments and mirrors were proposed as well as arms that held nothing at all. Despite these efforts, it was decided not to replace the arms after all, leaving the statue in the state of completion in which it was found.
Despite her missing arms, Venus de Milo is thought by most to represent the ideal of feminine beauty if not in today’s world, then certainly in the time in which she was created. The great fame of the statue, however, is not solely the result of its beauty but can be attributed at least in part to the efforts of the French to publicize the attributes of Venus de Milo to compensate for the loss of the another sculpture that was considered to be one of the finest and most beautiful works of classical antiquity. The loss was of the renowned Medici Venus, seized by Napoleon from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence in 1802 but later returned to the Italians.
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Diana Blake is a professional artist and art history enthusiast. Her fascination with art history began when she encountered European art firsthand during several trips abroad as a young adult. As she began to compose a portfolio for her own art career, she called upon what she had seen in Europe and extended her knowledge to other styles of art through profuse reading and exhaustive research. As a result, Diana has written more than one hundred articles in which she delves into a variety of art history topics and she has compiled a list of links that she believes to be invaluable for art history enthusiasts. In addition, she also reviews books and movies on the topic of art history and has assembled an extensive list of online stores that sell books, movies and gift items related to art history.
You can see Diana's own artwork by visiting her site at www.dianablake.net.