Medici Venus

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Marble statue of naked Venus (Uffizi, Florence), first recorded for certain in 1638 in the Villa Medici in Rome. The base is inscribed in Greek ‘Cleomenes son of Apollodorus’ (about whom nothing is known), but in the 18th century its reputation as a model of female beauty was so great that the signature's authenticity was doubted and the statue was attributed to such illustrious names as Phidias and Praxiteles (to whose Aphrodite of Cnidus it bears some resemblance in pose). Several other statues of similar type exist, but in spite of the Medici Venus's quite severe restorations, it far outdid its rivals in fame, and it was one of the greatest prizes that Napoleon brought to France when Italy was under his dominion (it was in Paris 1803–15). As late as 1840 it was described by Ruskin as ‘one of the purest and most elevated incarnations of woman conceivable’, but its reputation has since crumbled, Martin Robertson (A History of Greek Art, 1975) describing it as being ‘among the most charmless remnants of antiquity’. It is now considered to be a copy of c.100 bc deriving from an original of the time of Praxiteles.

Subjects: Art.

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