Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Venus de Milo

The beautiful marble statue, Venus de Milo, stands 6.7 feet (203 cm) tall in the Louvre in Paris. It was created in about 130BC by Alexandros of Antioch. The French ended up with the Greek sculpture and named it Venus, even though this is the Roman name of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty and love. This sculpture has an interesting history which I will relay to you today.

She was found hidden away in a cavern on the island of Milos in the Aegean Sea in 1820. She was broken in pieces: upper body, lower body, top of left arm, left hand holding an apple, and inscribed base. The peasant who found her, Yorgos Kentrotas, knew that he should turn her in to the Turkish authorities but he found her beauty so great that he kept her for himself. He was probably also interested in how much money he could make if he sold her to the right buyer. Eventually, the officials learned of the discovery and took Venus de Milo from Kentrotas’ barn.

While visiting the island, a French naval officer d’Urville discovered the sculpture. He knew it was valuable and wanted to buy it for the French. The peasant was willing to sell it but d’Urville’s captain, uninterested in antiquities, said there was no room on the ship for her. When his ship reached Constantinople, d’Urville showed sketches of the sculpture to the French ambassador who immediately sent someone to buy the Venus de Milo for France.

The French arrived as the sculpture was being loaded onto a ship. It was to be delivered to the Sultan of Constantinople’s translator as a gift from the natives of the island. The French fought for the Venus de Milo and were victorious.
Once at the Louvre, the sculpture was put back together but the arms were not as well finished as the rest of the sculpture so they were left off. Experts later determined that the arms were original pieces of the Venus de Milo. The inscribed base told us who had created the sculpture, Alexandros of Antioch, but it dated the Venus de Milo much later than the French had originally thought. That piece of the base has mysteriously disappeared, though we haven’t forgotten the information it taught us.

French sculptors worked to create a new set of arms for the Venus de Milo but she was ultimately left armless. We do know that the right arm originally rested on the raised knee to hold up the drapery. The left arm crossed her body and held an apple. The sculpture was once painted in bright colors and decorated with jewelry but none of that remains.

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Anonymous said...

A very interesting and informative article on the Venus. I always wondered where she came from. Thanks!

Jessica said...

She does have an interesting story. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for reading!