Venus de Milo

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Venus de Milo
Greek: Αφροδίτη της Μήλου
Venus de Milo on display at the Louvre
ArtistAlexandros of Antioch
YearBetween 130 and 100 BC
TypeMarble
Dimensions203 cm (80 in)
ConditionArms broken off; otherwise intact
LocationLouvre Museum, Paris, France
Coordinates48°51′36″N 2°20′14″E / 48.859958°N 2.337269°E / 48.859958; 2.337269Coordinates: 48°51′36″N 2°20′14″E / 48.859958°N 2.337269°E / 48.859958; 2.337269

The Venus de Milo (Greek: Αφροδίτη της Μήλου, Aphroditi tis Milou) is an ancient Greek statue and one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture. Initially it was attributed to the sculptor Praxiteles, but based on an inscription that was on its plinth, the statue is now thought to be the work of Alexandros of Antioch.[1]

Created sometime between 130 and 100 BC, the statue is believed to depict Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. However, some scholars claim it is the sea-goddess Amphitrite, venerated on Milos.[2] It is a marble sculpture, slightly larger than life size at 203 cm (6 ft 8 in) high. Part of an arm and the original plinth were lost following the statue's discovery. It is currently on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The statue is named after Aphrodite's Roman name, Venus, and the Greek island of Milos, where it was discovered.

Description[edit]

The Venus de Milo's arms are missing, for unknown reasons.[3][page needed] There is a filled hole below her right breast that originally contained a metal tenon that would have supported the separately carved right arm.

Discovery and history[edit]

Discovery[edit]

It is generally asserted that the Venus de Milo was discovered on 8 April 1820 by a peasant named Yorgos Kentrotas, inside a buried niche within the ancient city ruins of Milos. Milos is the current village of Trypiti, on the island of Milos (also called Melos, or Milo) in the Aegean, which was then a part of the Ottoman Empire.[4]

Elsewhere, the discoverers are identified as Yorgos Bottonis and his son Antonio. Paul Carus gave the site of discovery as "the ruins of an ancient theater in the vicinity of Castro, the capital of the island", adding that Bottonis and his son "came accidentally across a small cave, carefully covered with a heavy slab and concealed, which contained a fine marble statue in two pieces, together with several other marble fragments. This happened in February, 1820". He apparently based these assertions on an article he had read in the Century Magazine.[5]

The Australian historian Edward Duyker, citing a letter written by Louis Brest who was the French consul in Milos in 1820, asserts the discoverer of the statue was Theodoros Kendrotas and that he has been confused with his younger son Giorgios (known phonetically as Yorgos) who later claimed credit for the find. Duyker asserts that Kendrotas was taking stone from a ruined chapel on the edge of his property – terraced land that had once formed part of a Roman gymnasium – and that he discovered an oblong cavity some 1.2 × 1.5 metres (4 × 5 ft) deep in the volcanic tuff. It was in this cavity, which had three wings, that Kendrotas first noticed the upper part of the statue.[6]

Notwithstanding these anomalies, the consensus is that the statue was found in two large pieces (the upper torso and the lower draped legs) along with several herms (pillars topped with heads), fragments of the upper left arm and left hand holding an apple, and an inscribed plinth.

Front view
Three-quarter view
Back view
3D Model

In France[edit]

In 1871, during the Paris Commune uprising, many public buildings were burned. The Venus de Milo statue was secreted out of the Louvre Museum in an oak crate and hidden in the basement of the Prefecture of Police. Although the Prefecture was burned, the statue survived undamaged.[7]

In 1920, sculptor Robert Ingersoll Aitken created a stir when he criticized the display, lighting, and placement of the statue of Venus de Milo in the museum.[8]

In the autumn of 1939, the statue was packed for removal from the Louvre in anticipation of the outbreak of war. Scenery trucks from the Comédie-Française transported the Louvre's masterpieces to safer locations in the countryside.[9] During World War II, the statue was sheltered safely in the Château de Valençay, along with the Winged Victory of Samothrace and Michelangelo's Slaves.[10]

Fame[edit]

The great fame of the Venus de Milo during the nineteenth century owed much to a major propaganda effort by the French authorities. In 1815, France had returned the Venus de' Medici (also known as the Medici Venus) to the Italians, after it had been looted by Napoleon Bonaparte. The Medici Venus, regarded as one of the finest classical sculptures in existence, caused the French to promote the Venus de Milo as a greater treasure than that which they recently had lost. The statue was praised dutifully by many artists and critics as the epitome of graceful female beauty. However, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was among its detractors, labelling it a "big gendarme".[11][page needed]

Modern use[edit]

A restoration proposal by archaeologist and art historian Adolf Furtwängler in 1916 showing how the statue may have originally looked

The statue has greatly influenced masters of modern art; one prime example is Salvador Dalí's Venus de Milo with Drawers.[12]

The statue was formerly part of the seal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), one of the oldest associations of plastic surgeons in the world.[13]

In February 2010, the German magazine Focus featured a doctored image of this Venus giving Europe the middle finger, which resulted in a defamation lawsuit against the journalists and the publication.[14] They were found not guilty by the Greek court.[15]

Origin of Fame[edit]

Upon its discovery in 1820, the Venus de Milo was always considered to be a significant artistic finding, but did not gain its status as an icon until later on. The exact circumstances in which she was discovered, however, are uncertain and will probably always remain this way. But, we do know that at this time, the Louvre and in turn, French art as a whole, had suffered great losses when Napoleon’s looted art collection was returned to their countries of origin. The museum lost some of its most iconic pieces, like Rome’s Laocoon and His Sons and Italy’s Venus de Medici. The hole that this left in French culture allowed the perfect path for the Venus de Milo to become an international icon. Based on early drawings, the plinth that had been detached from the statue was known to have dates on it, which revealed that it was created after the Classical period, which was the most desirable artistic period. This caused the French to hide the plinth, in an effort to conceal this fact before her introduction to the Louvre in 1821. She held a prime spot in the gallery, and became iconic, mostly due to the Louvre’s branding campaign and emphasis on her importance in order to regain national pride. This is why she is the most notable and universally known Venus statue.

Perception[edit]

Upon the first arrival of the Venus de Milo to the Louvre, she was accepted and praised immediately, believed to be a Classical Grecian masterpiece. Even once the statue was discovered to have actually been created in the Hellenistic period, she still held the same amount of popularity around the world. Many artists were inspired by the beautiful sculpture, which eventually led to her role in pop culture.

Inspired Works[edit]

Many modern artists have been inspired by this piece since she first arrived at the Louvre. (ancient eu) One of the more notable pieces was created by French Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne who drew a pencil study in 1881. Another inspired work was by René Magritte, who painted a reduced-scale version of plaster, with bright pink and dark blue, entitled “Les Menottes de Cuivre” or “The Copper Handcuffs” in 1931. Even more recently are the works of Neo-Dada Pop artist Jim Dine, who often utilizes the Venus de Milo in his sculptures and paintings since the 1970s. But, possibly the most widely-known adaptation is that of Salvador Dalí, with his 1936 creation “Venus de Milo aux tiroirs (Venus of Milos with Drawers).” The Spanish Surrealist created a half-size plaster cast, painted it, and covered the slightly open drawers with metal knobs and fur pom-poms. This inspired recreation of the famous sculpture was meant to display the “goddess of love as a fetishistic anthropomorphic cabinet with secret drawers filled with a maelstrom of mysteries of sexual desires that only a modern psychoanalyst can interpret” (Oppen & Meijer, 2019).

The image of the Venus de Milo is seen constantly in modern culture, whether it be in magazines, advertisements, or home decor. The references to the sculpture go on and on, which speaks to her ability to maintain relevance.

Facts[edit]

This Grecian statue is believed to depict the Greek Goddess of love and beauty, which they would refer to as Aphrodite. But, the Louvre chose to label her as Venus instead, and the name remained.

While most accept the statue as a depiction of Venus/Aphrodite, and some believe it depicts the sea goddess Amphitrite, others still believe it is neither. Amphitrite was widely popular on the island on which the statue was found, fueling this opinion. This debate is still very much alive, but with a lack of evidence and clues, like her missing arm, it is difficult to determine a definitive answer. If the arm had been holding something, like a spear, apple or a spool of thread, it would give much more insight into who the statue is and put the debate to rest.

Much like the plinth, the French are also responsible for the loss of the statues’ arms. Kentrotas, who originally uncovered the statue, found fragments of an arm and hand, but they were discarded by the French. The Venus sculpture was also robbed of her accessories, like a bracelet and earrings. These were presumably gone long before her discovery, but the proof of their existence lies in the remaining holes where the objects were fastened to her body.

In the fall of 1939, the French relocated the Venus de Milo and other important pieces to a chateau in the French countryside in fear of a war invasion in Paris.

Cultural impact[edit]

Comedy[edit]

Charlie Drake had a sketch in which the statue lost its arms as a result of careless work by museum employees tasked with packing it.[16]

Dean Martin referenced the statue on a TV special in a segment involving a woman from the studio audience joining him on stage. The nervous young lady giggled and repeatedly started to bite her nails when Martin gently brushed her hand away and said, "Don't bite your nails, look what happened to the Venus de Milo!" [17]

The film Carry on Cleo has a skit showing how the statue lost its arms. An Asterix film has a similar skit.

Film and television[edit]

A plot to steal the statue is at the center of the spoof spy film The Last of the Secret Agents? (1966), starring Marty Allen and Steve Rossi.

In The Tick episode "Armless but Not Harmless", the villains Venus and Milo rob an art museum.

In The Simpsons episode "Homer Badman", a Gummi Venus de Milo parodies the statue.

In Disney's Hercules, there is a scene where Hercules skips a stone and accidentally breaks off both arms.

In Twin Peaks, the Venus de Milo is in the Red Room.

In the BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses, Del Boy shows Rodney a model of the statue claiming there are sick-minded people in the world who would make such a statue of a disabled person.

In The Goodies episode Rome Antics, which was set in ancient times, Emperor Tim has the complete statue in his quarters. Graeme enters, removes his cloak, and throws it over one of the arms. The head falls off.

Music[edit]

  • The song "Brown Eyed Handsome Man", written by Chuck Berry and covered by Buddy Holly contains the lyrics, "The Venus de Milo was a beautiful lass. She held the world in the palm of her hand. She lost both her arms in a wrestling match to win a brown-eyed handsome man."
  • The fourth track on Miles Davis' album Birth of the Cool (1957) is named "Venus de Milo".
  • The popular Lewis E. Gensler and Leo Robin song "Love Is Just Around the Corner" contains the lyrics, "Venus de Milo was noted for her charms, But strictly between us, you're cuter than Venus, And what's more you've got arms."
  • "Venus" is the second track on the band Television's debut album Marquee Moon (1977). In the refrain, the narrator falls into "the arms of Venus de Milo."
  • The song "Touch Too Much", on the AC/DC album Highway to Hell, contains the lyrics, "She had the face of an angel smiling with sin, The body of Venus with arms." "In the arms of the angel."
  • The song "Spaz Attack" by the group 2NU contains the lyrics, "All of a sudden, this fully beautiful, tightly wrapped Venus de Milo look-alike comes in."
  • The Spanish song “No te cambio por nada” (I wouldn’t trade you for anything”) by famous Guatemalan singer Ricardo Arjona, contains this phrase:

“...No, no, no, no te cambio por nada, Ni por un viaje a Fiji con la Venus de Milo...” (no, no, no, I will not trade you for anything, not even for a trip to Fiji with the Venus de Milo...”, another of his songs “Nada es como tú” (Nothing is like you” says: “Besé a la Venus de Milo y a una diosa en Hollywood, de tanto patear caminos, hoy sé con exactitud que... Nada, nada, nada es como tú...” (“I kiss the Venus de Milo and a Hollywood goddess, and from all my experiences, now I know exactly that nothing, nothing, nothing is like you...”

  • The song "Please Don't Bury Me" by John Prine on his album Sweet Revenge references Venus de Milo. The song is about a man that dies and is leaving parts of his body behind. He leaves her his arms in the line “Venus de Milo can have my arms”
  • A verse in the Engineers' Drinking Song references the sculpute:

Venus was a statue made entirely of stone;
She never wore a fig leaf; She's as naked as a bone;
On discovering her arms were gone, an engineer discoursed:
"The damn thing's made of concrete, and it should be reinforced!"

Femen protest[edit]

On 3 October 2012, French activists belonging to Femen protested against rape by standing topless in front of the Venus de Milo. The group indicated they chose the Venus de Milo because the statue has no arms and therefore symbolizes a woman’s helplessness and vulnerability.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Base Deception". Smithsonian. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  2. ^ "Aphrodite Known Venus de Milo". Louvre.fr. France.
  3. ^ Curtis 2003.
  4. ^ Venus de Milo at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  5. ^ Carus, Paul (1916). The Venus of Milo: An Archeological Study of the Goddess of Womanhood. Open Court Publishing Company. p. 2. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  6. ^ Duyker 2014, pp. 61–62.
  7. ^ McCullough, David. The Greater Journey. p. 326.
  8. ^ "Criticises museum sculpture settings" (pdf). The New York Times. 21 May 1920. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  9. ^ Nicholas 1995, p. 55
  10. ^ Nicholas 1995, p. 87
  11. ^ Bonazzoli, Francesca; Robecchi, Michele (2014). Mona Lisa to Marge: How the World's Greatest Artworks Entered Popular Culture. New York: Prestel. ISBN 9783791348773.
  12. ^ "Venus de Milo with Drawers (and PomPoms)". archive.thedali.org. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  13. ^ Brent, Burt (2008). "The Reconstruction of Venus: Following Our Legacy". Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 121 (6): 2170. doi:10.1097/PRS.0b013e318170a7b6.
  14. ^ Diehn, Sonya Angelica (1 December 2011). "Greece Pursues Venus Defamation Case". Courthouse News Service. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  15. ^ "Griechisches Gericht spricht FOCUS-Journalisten frei" [Greek Court acquits Focus journalists]. Burda Newsroom (in German). 3 April 2012. Archived from the original on 15 July 2012.
  16. ^ "Charlie Drake's Christmas Show". 26 December 1960. p. 25 – via BBC Genome.
  17. ^ Robert Hanks Television Review independent.co.uk 25 May 1999
  18. ^ "Topless at the Louvre: FEMEN activists stage anti-rape protest — RT". Rt.com. Archived from the original on 13 October 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]