Venus Pudica Torso

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This free-standing marble statue represents a Venus Pudica having just emerged from a bath. After Praxiteles created and installed in Cnidus the first full-scale representation of a nude female, other sculptors followed suit with the same theme. The complete nudity of the torso is because the arms which would have covered some of her body are missing. This gives the statue a different aspect to that which it would have had originally. As a reference to such important iconography, one can look to the work conserved in the Villa Medicis in Rome, which shows the goddess covering her groin with her left hand while her right arm partially covers her breasts. The head, turned sharply to the left shoulder, is relatively small, while the neck is long. The hair is tied back with a bun above the nape. On the piece in question it is still possible to see a lock of hair falling down from a ponytail over her delicate shoulders. The torso is a late Hellenistic work from the 1st century BC, given the position of the limbs, the composition and other elements such as the hairstyling. The Venus of Medici owes much to the Capitoline Venus from approx. 280 BC, but it modified the former according to the stylistic principles of its time, for example, the hips and the shoulders and the narrowing of the waist.

Given its size it was probably neither for public nor for private worship. It was possibly a piece meant for ornamental or decorative use, as this element became very popular for decoration in thermal baths in the Roman period.

Aphrodite, the Greek Venus, was the goddess of beauty, love and fertility, embodying the primal forces of the Creation. From the 3rd century BC, she was identified with Venus by the Romans, their local divinity related to the same forces. The goddess, according to Hesiod, was born from foam – the sperm – in the surrounding sea which came from the cut-off genitals of Uranus. In the origins of the Universe, Uranus (the Heavens) mated with Gea (the Earth), engendering various children. But out of fear that they would take the throne from him, he kept them imprisoned in the body of their mother. Cronus, tired of this situation, managed to gain power, castrating his own father and throwing the genitals into the sea:

From the middle of the foam a young woman was born. At first, she floated ashore towards the divine Cythera and from there she went to Cyprus… The august and beautiful goddess emerged from the sea, and around her delicate feet grew grass. (…) At first when she was born, and later when she went to join the body of the gods, Eros accompanied her as did the handsome Himeros. And she possessed these attributes (…): intimacy with young maidens, smiles, deceptions, sweet pleasure, love and tenderness.

Although the extremities of the goddess are missing, it is possible to appreciate the beauty of the piece in the careful execution and the smooth modelling of the female lines. Aphrodite is standing naked in slight contrapposto.

Praxiteles has been credited with the creation and popularisation of the models of Aphrodite naked, that at Arles (Louvre Museum MR365) and the Cnidus or Modest Aphrodite (c. 360 BC), where the goddess is represented while she is taking a purifying bath.

PARALLELS:

- REINACH, Salomon. Répertoire de la Statuaire Grecque et Romaine. Tome IV, p.224. Rome. 1969.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

- BLANC, N., GURY, Fr. «Eros». 1986. nº 157-192, LIMC III.
- DELIVORRIAS, A. «Aphrodite». 1984. nº 349-786, LIMC II.
- ELVIRA BARBA, M. A. Arte y Mito. Manual de Iconografía Clásica. Madrid. 2008.
- ESTEBAN SANTOS, A. Iconografía de la mitología griega. Dioses II: Los grandes Olímpicos. Madrid. 2011.
- GIULIANO, A. Museo Nazionale Romano. Le Sculture. 1979. Vol. I. 1. Pág. 170 y ss., nº 115.
- MANSUELLI, G.A. Galleria degli Uffizi. Le Sculture I. Roma. 1958. Pág. 128 (comentario a nº 89).
- MARTÍN DE LA TORRE, A. La Venus de Itálica. Ampurias, 3. 1941. Pág. 140-141.
- SIMON, E. Die Geburt der Aphrodite. Berlín. 1959.

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