“Sculpture is the art for the intelligence.” -Pablo Picasso
‘Venus de Milo’ (between 130BC-100BC) by Alexandros of Antioch
A bit of a background on Alexandros of Antioch:
There’s actually not much to tell about him- he was a pretty much an unknown artist of the Hellenistic period. Then, in 1820 his sculpture was discovered on the island of Melos and he became known for the Venus de Milo.
The sculpture is said to be a depiction of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty- but Aphrodite’s counterpart in Roman society was Venus. So the sculpture is named the Venus de Milo after the goddess it depicts and the place in which it was discovered.
The sculpture was originally believed to be by Praxiteles, a Greek sculptor, but due to several ancient inscriptions found on the Venus de Milo, the claim that the statue was by Praxiteles was cast into doubt.
When I first saw this sculpture, I was taken aback by how large it was. It stands 6’8” tall. The next hing I noticed (like many other people) is that she was missing her arms. When it was discovered, there were fragments of an upper left arm and left hand holding an apple, along with an inscribed plinth (a block/slab on which a column/pedestal/statue is placed). It was originally thought that the arm wasn’t a part of the sculpture because it wasn’t as well done as the rest of it, however, it’s now believed that the parts of the sculpture that wouldn’t be seen were not held to the same standard that the rest of the sculpture was.
What’s fascinating about this sculpture is that it’s actually made of two main pieces of marble, with several marble fragments- but looking at this sculpture, it doesn’t seem like it. The upper body is carved from one piece of marble; and the legs draped by the fabric is carved from another piece. When the Venus de Milo was first discovered, it was found in two pieces with several herms (pillars with carved busts) surrounding it. The two pieces are held together by vertical pegs, locking it into place.
This sculpture would have originally been tinted by colour pigments to make it more realistic- then accessories such as bracelets or earrings would have been added to it before it was placed in a temple and worshipped. If you look at the sculpture now, you’ll see that there are no remnants of the pigments or the accessories- the only evidence for the jewelry comes from the holes in the sculpture, where they would have been fitted.
The Venus de Milo is considered as the epitome of Greek beauty and aesthetic because of the combination of grandeur and grace. When you see this amazing sculpture, I think you’ll see why it has received such high praise over the years.
For those that have actually stuck around and read my “Guide to the Louvre” series, thanks. A lot of it is boring history (ew) but I find it so fascinating that sculptures and paintings from hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of years ago are still appreciated today.
Anyways, best of luck to your own adventures and I hope you get a chance to see this piece of art for yourself. All the best!