You may not have heard of this one, but it is another piece that is a hot spot for visitors of the Louvre, a Hellenistic sculpture.
This is the Venus de Milo, a sculpture found on the greek island of Milos in 1820. There is a lot of mystery surrounding it, adding to its appeal.
The plinth (the slab of stone she would be standing on) would have included the name of the artist and most likely the year the statue was made. There is speculation that a sculptor of the Hellenistic period, Alexandros, sculpted it between 130-100 B.C., but since the plinth does not exist, there’s no way to be sure. Because of this, art historians have analyzed the statue’s characteristics to try to gain insight.
It closely resembles a Roman copy of a Greek original called the Aphrodite of Capua, which was made in the 4th century B.C., and although her peaceful and harmonic face and the smooth and delicate carving of the hair and skin would further suggest this timeframe is correct, the spiral composition and elongated small-breasted body reflects innovations of the 3rd and 1st centuries B.C. She also would have had jewelry and adornments attached to her, but only the holes used to attach them remain today.
On top of the unclear dating of the piece, the subject is also not entirely known. It is called Venus because it is believed to be a depiction of Aphrodite, and those names are used synonymously in Greek/Roman sculpture. This might not entirely be true, though, as without her arms her identity can’t be proven.
The position of her arms and what she would be holding would provide clear evidence of who she is meant to be, but her arms have never been recovered and there is nothing on the statue that would suggest how they were positioned. If she was holding an apple, that would tell us she’s Aphrodite, but on the island of Milos a goddess of the sea, Amphitrite, was adored, therefore there’s a chance the statue is a depiction of her.
Overall, Venus de Milo is a beautiful example of Hellenistic sculpture. Her missing arms almost force the viewer to focus on her face and body, which are both peaceful and expertly detailed, creating a wonderful sculpture to admire.
Unfortunately, Venus de Milo’s location in the Louvre was very hot and crowded when I visited, so I grabbed a picture of myself further down the “hall of Venuses” with Venus de Milo far in the background where I wouldn’t be in twenty other people’s photos. 🙂