One of the great iconic statues is the Venus de Milos in the Louvre but there are far more seductive statues of Greek Aphrodite, Venus to the Romans, in the museums around the world and they are all based on 3 Greek classical statues created over 2500 years ago. This photo gallery is dedicated to the allure of Aphrodite that has kept her at the forefront of Classical art for so long. I hope you enjoy the photos, Paul Williams.
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Ancient sculptures of Aphrodite, Venus to the Romans. Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation and according to Homers Iliad was the daughter of Zeus and Dione on the island of Cyprus rising from the sea. In Greek mythology she is feared by the other Greek Gods because they thought her beauty would lead to rival suiters amongst the Gods that would lead to war. Accordingly Zeus, her father married her to Hephaestus who was ugly and deformed and was not seen to be a threat. Aphrodite was not happy in the marriage and had many lovers such as Ares, Anchises and was, as happens in the convoluted myths of the Greek Gods, both the surrogate mother and lover of Adonis. The ancient Greeks identified Aphrodite with the Egyptian goddess Hathor and she was also know as Cytherea, Lady of Cythera and Cyris, Lady of Cyprus.
Aphrodite is portrayed in Greek Mythology as the ultimate temptress of astounding beauty. She did not have a childhood but was born a nubile infinitely desirable adult. The cult of Aphrodite spread all over Greece and she became the focus of sexual desire. At the temple of Aphrodite on the summit of Acrocorinth intercourse with priestesses was seen to be a method of worshiping Aphrodite.
Greek sculptures tussled with how to portray such a potent Goddess and in around 360 BC and Athenian sculpture named Praxiteles created a statue known as the Aphrodite of Thespiae. Aphrodite is depicted standing draped from the waist down. The upper half of her body is naked and her right hand is stretched out holding a Golden apple which she won in the Judgement of Paris which started the Trojan wars. Aphrodite looks down slightly to one side as if modestly accepting the Golden apple but the pose has a seductive power. Praxiteles Aphrodite became so famous that the infamous Greek courtesan Phryne, who was also famous for her beauty, ordered a version for which she is said to be the model and which the Venus of Arles in the Louvre is believed to be a copy of.
The most famous Aphrodite based on the Aphrodite of Thespiae is not attributed to Praxiteles though but to the sculptor Alexandros of Antioch who in around 100BC sculpted the Venus de Milo on the Greek island of Milos. The Venus de Milo has become an icon of love and beauty. The statue is missing its arms but this lack of perfection only seems to heighten the enigmatic power over the viewer which has made her so famous.
Praxiteles love affair with the depiction of Aphrodite led him to be more daring and sculpt the first known fully female nude Greek statue, the Aphrodite of Cnidus, that still influence artists today. Aphrodite is depicted standing by a vase of water preparing for the rival bath that will restore her purity. She is holding a towel in her left hand whilst her right hand covers her naked vulva which both shields her womanhood and draws attention to her nudity in a powerful way. She looks wistfully to one side as if hiding her modesty from an unseen viewer or perhaps tempting him by hiding her nudity. This style of Aphrodite statue is known by academics as the “Modest Venus” or Venus Pudica and was a popular style copied later by the Romans which can be seen in the famous Venus of Medici and Capitoline Venus versions.
In the Natural History by Pliny the Elder a style of Venus was described that is known as the crouching or bathing Venus or Aphrodite. This statue style is attributed to a lost Greek. Hellenistic bronze statue of the mid 3rd century BC attributed to the Greek sculptor Doldalsas of Bethynia. Aphrodite is shown crouching with her right knee close to the ground. She turns her head to the right and, in most versions, reaches her right arm over to her left shoulder to cover her breasts. She has a look of surprise on her face as if she has been disturbed whilst bathing wrapping around her body to hide her breasts and nakedness. The full power of this style of Aphrodite statue can be seen in the version in the British museum. The viewer can walk around the statue and see Aphrodite from every angle and see that she is naked yet she reveals nothing. The crouching Venus is one of the most seductive Aphrodite styles portraying the full power of the beauty and irresistible of the Aphrodite myth.
From these Aphrodite sculpture styles many later versions evolved. The Romans were seduced by Aphrodite, or Venus as they called her, and made a variety of versions of the statue styles. The power of Aphrodite did not end with the fall of the western Roman Empire. In the rebirth of the classical Era in the 15th century known as the Renaissance, Roman sculptures of Aphrodite acquired by the Medici family led to them commissioning “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli. Botticelli draws heavily on the Greek “Modest Venus” statue style with the variation that the venus hides her modesty with her long locks of hair. The painting also seems to depict virginal innocence rather than the Greek Aphrodite the temptress.
The Greek sculptures of Aphrodite are a high point in mans creative and sculptural skills. The great Greek sculptors like Praxiteles and Doldalsas of Bethynia made stone into palpable flesh. They managed to turn the inanimate bronze into an animate seductive goddess that through Roman copies still seduce visitors to the great museums of the world today.
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