The Venus de Milo is one of the most famous sculptures in the world. The millions of tourists from all over the globe come to the Louvre museum in Paris to see it. Almost as popular as the Mona Lisa, it played a significant role in the history of art and inspired thousands of artists, such as Dali, Magritte, Baker, Dine, and Cezanne. Alexandros of Antioch, a talented artist of the Hellenistic period, is known to carve this sculpture in around 100 BCE. However, now, it is possible to see it everywhere. The image of the marble woman can be found on the covers of CDs, in the advertisements, and even among the toys.
First of all, it is important to state that the sculpture is taller than most people. She stands at 6 feet 8 inches in height. Moreover, her original color was lost because many sculptures made of marble, like Venus, were painted in the style of polychrome.
Furthermore, it is possible to state that the image of Venus de Milo is quote misleading. It is a well-known fact that it represents the Greek Goddess of beauty and love that was depicted half-naked in different pictures. On the other hand, according to some Greek works, the person behind this art work is actually Aphrodite. Besides, there are other sources suggesting that this sculpture depicts another goddess, Amphitrite. She was a sea goddess, and she was especially popular in Milos. Furthermore, other scientists are sure it is not Venus or Aphrodite, but it is Victory, a prostitute.
It might come as quite a surprise, but this masterpiece had a chance to become a national embarrassment. During the wars, Napoleon Bonaparte had decided to get Venus de’ Medici, one of the greatest masterpieces of Greek sculpture. He took it from Italy, but then France had to give it back. The place where Venus de’ Medici has been located became empty, and they had to promote this image. The new sculpture has been well received by critics and artists in Paris, and it soon became a treasure everybody enjoyed. Later, during the dangerous period of World War II, the sculpture went into hiding. Along with other priceless works of art in the museums like Michelangelo’s Slaves or Winged Victory of Samothrace, it was hidden in one of the castles somewhere in the countrysides in France.
Different Perspectives on Missing Arms of Sculpture
Another mystery of the Venus de Milo is her arms. They were lost for centuries, and they could serve as clues to answer the questions as to her origin and occupation. For example, fruits can mean one thing, a spool could mean another, and a spear can tell about something different. For instance, if she could hold an apple, it would serve as a proof that she was Aphrodite. It could mean that she had an award, which has been given by Paris before the start of the Trojan War. Unfortunately, these facts remain unknown, and this topic is subject to numerous controversial discussions and studies.
It is worth highlighting that the loss of her limbs was discovered to be the mistake of the French. As soon as Yorgos Kentrotas discovered the fragments of her hand and her arm when he noticed this sculpture in ruins, she was reassembled. However, then, the artists decide that when the arms were put together, they could change her image and they decided to discard them because this adjustment led to irregular appearance. Nevertheless, today, many artists are confident that the parts of the figure were lost during the moving of this piece to France in 1820.
Later, it has been discovered that the figure lacks not only her arms. For instance, she is known to be originally draped in jewelry: she was wearing a headband, a bracelet, and earrings. These elements were lost many years ago, but since there are holes for holding them, it is possible to figure that there are some flourishes missed.
At the same time, it is interesting to know that she has been discovered on the island of Milos in one of the ancient cities. It can come a quite surprise, but this fact was revealed not many centuries ago. Only in 1820, it was Yorgos Kentrotas, one of the farmers, who found this statue in pieces somewhere in ruins in one of the ancient towns. It is the reason why she was named Venus de Milo.
Changing Interpretations of the Artwork through History
Since many years ago the research became more difficult and many art historians decided that the Venus de Milo was created by the different sculptor. For some decades, she was represented as a work of Praxiteles, one of the greatest Attic sculptors. With this in mind, it could have lead to the thought that it is a masterpiece of the Classical period if it could have been created during fifth or fourth century BCE. Besides, this period is known as more productive in terms of art than the Hellenistic period. Fortunately for the historians, they discovered an important inscription that was on the plinth of the figure. They realized that it was a mistake to attribute the art work to Praxiteles and that it was the work of Alexandros of Antioch. In addition to this, Venus is known to serve as a gift to the King of France. To be exact, it was the Marquis de Rivière who presented this art work to Louis XVIII. As a result, this masterpiece was later located in Louvre where it is available for everyone to see and enjoy even today.
Consequently, there is no doubt that the Venus de Milo is one of the most famous works of art that has been ever created. Hundreds of artists including Dali and Cezanne perceived it as a powerful source of inspiration for their works. Today, many people are sure that this is a unique surrealist masterpiece with no arms. They are convinced that her lack of arms was done on purpose, which made this sculpture dreamlike and strange. In other words, this enigmatic incompleteness of Venus de Milo has transformed such an ancient remarkable work of art into a uniquely modern one.
- Curtis, G. (2006). Disarmed: The story of the Venus de Milo. Stroud: Sutton.
- Ramljak, S., & Salvador Dali Museum. (2001). A disarming beauty: The Venus de Milo in 20th century. St. Petersburg, FL: Salvador Dalí Museum.
- Van Steen, G. (2010). The Venus de Milo. Liberating Hellenism from the Ottoman Empire, 17-66.