Venus de Milo

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A marble statue of Aphrodite (Venus), the best known of all ancient statues, found on the small Greek island of Melos (or Milos) in 1820 and now in the Louvre, Paris. A plinth (now lost) found with the statue was said to be signed ‘…andros [Alexandros or Agasandros] of Antioch on the Maeander’, but nothing is known of this sculptor. Originally the statue was thought to date from the Classical age of Greek sculpture, but it is now put appreciably later, c.100 bc, and is thought to be a sophisticated combination of older styles—the goddess's head derives from the later 5th century bc, her nudity from the 4th century, and her spiral, omnifacial posture from the Hellenistic age. The Venus de Milo arrived in the Louvre (1821) soon after the Medici Venus had been returned to Italy (1815), and its enormous fame stemmed from French determination to persuade the world that they had gained a greater treasure than they had lost: Martin Robertson (A History of Greek Art, 1975) writes that its ‘extraordinary reputation, which started by propaganda, has become perpetuated by habit’. Many 19th-century commentators went into raptures about the figure, which was thought to represent the apogee of female beauty, perfectly combining grandeur with gracefulness, but Renoir described it as a ‘big gendarme’. The statue's arms are missing and many conjectures have been made as to what the goddess might have been holding: it has been suggested for example that she is intended as Venus Victrix, and so would have been shown with the golden apple presented to her by Paris when he adjudged her more beautiful than her rivals Juno and Minerva.

Subjects: Art.

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