THE VENUS DE MILO

THEVENUS DE MILO

Medievalartistic frames continue to be one of the most compelling ways torecreate the past, especially important historical periods. The Venusde Milo is a famous statue that historians and archeologistsassociate with Hellenistic periods (fig. 1).1Perhaps, due to the histrionic situations of the statue’sunearthing and acquisition, the Venusde Miloattracted common and varied reconstruction from scholars. In thisregard, it is possible to examine the statue’s historical contextin relation to archeological evidence and archival sources todetermine the historical context of its artistic cues with theaudience in mind. By connecting the audience and the context, itwould, therefore, be possible to provide vital facts that confirmthat, indeed, Venus de Milo is a Hellenistic period piece of art. Itis vital to point out that this discussion will take a juxtaposedanalysis with another example of art that has been typicallyassociated with the classical period- Laocoön and His Sons sculpture(fig. 2), which is possibly the best match because both sculpturesare considered Hellenistic and Classical respectively.2There are a lot of features of Venus De Milo that are Hellenistic andthe best way to identify them is by comparing it to Laocoön and HisSons. The paper assesses the Hellenistic sculpture of the Venusde Miloby drawing on archival and archaeology evidence to suggest a freshreconstruction of its original context, appearance, and audience andcomparing it to the Classical statue of Laocoön and His Sonssculpture.

Fig.1. Aphrodite, Melos, Ca. 150-50 BC

Fig.2. Laocoön and His Sons sculpture

Briefdescription of Venus De Milo

TheVenus de Milo, an elegant sculpture of a goddess has fascinated andcaptivated many people since its unearthing in 1820 in the island ofMelos. The sculpture with its revolutionary features includingpositioning in space, curved configuration, and the fall of thedrapes over the hips illustrates sculptural exploration in theHellenistic age. After its unearthing, Marquis de Riviere offered itto Louis XVIII who gave it to the Louvre, after which it gainedimmediate and permanent recognition. The sculpture has two slabs ofmarble comprised of numerous segments that were sculptureddistinctly: legs, bust, arm, and foot. The parts were then securedwith perpendicular pins, a fairly widespread technique in the Greekworld. Originally, the goddess was dressed in metal ornamentsincluding earrings, headband, and bracelet, but only the fasteningholes remain. The goddess’ attitude remains an obstinate mystery.3The lack of qualities and the missing parts of the marble made herrestoration and documentation difficult. However, her half-nakednessdepiction and the erotic womanly curves point to her representationof Aphrodite.4On the other hand, the sculpture may have represented Amphitrite, thegoddess respected in Milo. The statue is an inadvertent surrealistmasterwork while the absent of arms makes her perfect yet damaged,stunning but broken. The sculpture exemplifies the contemporary’sunsureness to classical beauty. The statue was venerated as an imageof the complete cogent lucidity of the Greek civilization, as wellas, the faultless synchronization of divine beauty. During the 19thcentury, the armless sculpture entered the European culture whenwriters and artists were snubbing the timeless and perfect.

VenusDe Milo is an ancient statue that is said and thought to representAphrodite, an ancient goddess Greece. Aphrodite was a goddess ofsexual love and beauty. It is believed to have been found with Venusby the Romans. The name is derived from a Greek word Aphros,which means “foam”, which means that he was born from Uranius(which means the heavens) who produced white foam from his severedgenitals. Greek mythology states that Uranius was thrown into the seaby his son Cronus. It explains the reason Aphrodite was widelyworshiped and honored at seas.5The Spartans honored her as the goddess of war and so was in otherplaces in Greece such as Thebes and Cyprus. The Greeks believed thatshe presided over all marriages. The dark spot of her legendary partin Greek mythology is that even prostitutes considered her theirpatron. That, however, did not obscure her solemn and austere placeas a goddess. Aphrodite bribed Paris so that she could be awarded thecrown as the goddess of beauty. She bribed her with the love of themortal woman considered to be the most beautiful- Helen of Sparta.Aphrodite ended up being awarded an Apple (fig. 3). Sculpturalremains found with the sculpture and new research propose that theVenus de Milo initially held an apple to indicate her triumph in theJudgment of Paris, as well as, refer to Melos. Thus, the statue gavecaptivating graphic form and local connotation to a legend recognizedfrom the time of Homer and construed in the Hellenistic period as asymbol for civilization’s choice of a way of life.

Fig.3. A hand holding an apple, unearthed together with the Venusde Milo

Thestatue was made from Parian marble. It is 6 feet 8 inches tall andlacking its plinth. Expert information also indicates that it wascarved from the two blocks of Parian marble with separate parts thatwere carved differently and affixed with its vertical pegs (fig. 1).The interesting aspect about Venusde Milostatue is that there some myths associated its missing parts- thearms and original base. It has been established throughout historythat the missing parts were lost as a result of identification errorsthat had the missing parts believed not originally belong to it.Modern archeologists and historians, however, hold that the missingparts were, indeed, part of the original sculpture because it wascommon for Hellenistic sculptors not pay attention to less visibleparts of the body hence, they devoted less time to them (fig. 4).

Venusde Miloas a Hellenistic sculpture

Itis worth to note the transitional features that marked the move fromclassical art to Hellenistic art. The peculiar aspect thatdistinguishes classical sculpture from Hellenistic sculpture is thatthe former took a more rigid stance than the latter. Classicalsculpture lacked an emotional connection with the audience withaspects such as eyes looking straight in front. Looking at VenusDe Milo,she depicts the female anatomy with the grace of a goddess, which istypical of most Hellenistic sculptures.6Classical sculpture did not have a lot of interest in emotion butthere was an interesting shift during the Hellenistic period7.Classical sculpture often intended to communicate a sense of idealismbecause figures in the classical period were thought to have idealphysical traits as portrayed in Greek mythology.

Aloofnessand impassive upper parts such as the head are typical of theHellenistic style that had been borrowed from late classicalsculpture in Greece during the artistic transition of 5th CenturyBC.8The second Hellenistic feature is the contrast between thesculpture’s smooth nude flesh appearing on the torso and the roughtexture of the drapery on the legs. A look at the spiral compositionalso reveals that the Venusde Milo’ssculpture slightly turned right from the hips to the shoulders. Theright hip is also thrust outwards forming an S-shaped pose.9All these are choreographed in such a way as to let the viewer have apronounced view of the most visible parts of the body. The emotionalaspect of the sculpture lies in its erotic tension. The drapery looksit is just about to slip off completely and one is likely to stay onlonger looking at the sculpture due to the illusion it creates. Thefour artistic features developed during the Hellenistic period- asharp contrast from classical sculpture, especially the lateclassical period. It is, therefore, noteworthy VenusDe Milosculpture is quite transitional in nature, but it embodies moreHellenistic features than classical features.

Adeparture from classical sculptures

Unlikeclassical sculpture, Hellenistic sculpture such as Venusde Milowas carved in diverse styles. The Laocoon sculpture is an artisticextreme that embodies the transition. Another extreme example is the“sitting boy with a goose”.10They represent the heroic agony and innocence, but with a sentimentaltouch. In classical sculpture, artists actually paid attention tofigures such as deities and athletes.11The common aspect of classical and Hellenistic sculpture is thepersonification of figures using erotic features. Portraiture tookcenter stage to reflect spiritual transformation that took place whenAlexander conquered the Persian Empire. There was a lot of emphasison the appearance of the frontal part of the sculpture. In the Venusde Milo,the frontal parts are the most visible.

Therole of drapery

TheVenusde Mioembodies drapery as an important aspect of Hellenistic statuary. Mostof them had female sculptures dressed in a chiton with feet hidden.The chiton was mainly concentrated at the hip rolled up just abovethe waist and some covering head or the shoulders. The cloak patternscreated an erratic effect that illuminated the intended nudity thathad become common during the Hellenistic period. Venusde Milo’ssculpture shows her in the same style. She looks straight ahead witha nude look and the chiton is wrapped around her waist only coveringthe visible frontal parts. The striking part is that the upper partof her chest is not covered- a striking to capture viewers’attention.

Fig.4. The left side of the Venusde Milo

Incorporationof emotion

UnlikeLaocoön and His Sons, which suggests emotion in a conservativemanner with simple gestures, Venusde Miloshows a lot of Hellenistic standards in terms of portraying emotion.The classical feature of the sculpture is its impassivity.Hellenistic sculpture focused on emotions that were common in thesecond century.12As such, they focused on pain, fear, amusement, pleasure, lassitude,or death. The Venusde Miloshows pleasure and amusement. Attention to dignity was fading andartists became more expressive of their feelings than it was in theclassical period. Venusde Miloreveals and demystifies the surge of emotional art during theHellenistic period. Like Venusde Milo,Laocoön and His Sons has Hellenistic emotionalism. Laocoön and HisSons depicted the neoclassical nobility of author Europeancivilizations and it glorifies heroism. Sculptors and other artistswere keen on appreciating beauty in the wake of death and destructionthat marked the Hellenistic period.

Theemphasis of anatomy

TheVenusde Milo’ssculpture is actually an anatomical spectacle. An instant lookreveals a woman depicted in the full anatomy of the archaic way ofshowcasing the grace of mythical figures. It is worth to state thatHellenistic sculptors derived a lot of aesthetic value from theirworks of art than their classical predecessors. They had a thematicadvantage because they had a lot of knowledge about Greek’smythology, which they inherited13.They used the knowledge to liven the anatomy of mythical figures suchas Venusde Milo.They improved the anatomy of sculptures by adding further details tothe configuration of the body and how it responds to emotionaltension associated with nudity and suggestive mythical poses. Thedepiction of the anatomy, however, depended on the subject andcharacter of the mythic figure in question. For Venusde Milo,she was the goddess of love and some cases war, but famous for love14.She is a product of the followers of Praxiteles who brought in a newmodeling of the flesh that introduced sensual effects to sculpturing.The technique was used to depict Hellenistic nudity for Greekgoddesses and an athletic for male mythic figures. The analysis hasillustrated the fascinating visual characteristics of the statue andits significance to understanding the Hellenistic period. The Venusde Milohas intrigued a lot of people since its discovery and with itsinnovatory attributes illustrates sculptural examination in theHellenistic age.

Thebest conclusion is that the Venusde Milorepresents the remarkable transition between the late classical andHellenistic periods. Many scholars consider the statue an example ofthe ideal beauty of the classic period because she represents thenude mystique of a goddess while others have mostly analyzed it termsof Hellenistic sculptures and other forms of art. Many nineteenthcentury scholars considered her an example of classical sculpturebecause she possesses stylistic similarities with Praxiteles. Modernhistorians and archaeologists, on the other hand, associate as aHellenistic sculpture due features such as erotic tension caused bythe way in which her robes appear to be about to slip off her nudefigure. The Hellenistic taste was more interested in emotions. It isperhaps the many myths and mysteries associated with Venus di Milothat makes her one of the most attractive pieces of art. It also addsto her beauty because she engages her audience with both of her handsmissing. It remains a guess on how much her mythical figures could beilluminating if her arms of intact. Laocoön and His Sons is one ofthe artistic works that can be matched with the Venusde Milodue to its expressive aesthetics.15The difference between Laocoön and His Sons and Venusde Milois that the former lacks the mythical controversy about the specificperiod it belongs. Laocoön and His Sons has been categoricallyidentified as belonging to the Pergamon School of the Hellenisticperiod. The society defines the attributes of art depending on theperiod and the representation of the art. In the modern world, thesociety respects the Hellenistic sculpture as much as the Classicalart. The Venusde Milohas become a highly significant art in the contemporary society. thepublic and scholars have usually appreciated the Aphrodite of Melosas an ageless and intriguing work of art. The statue’s particularcultural, architectural, and historical contexts have enhanced thecomprehension of the art. The analysis and the comparison of the artto the Laocoön and His Sons sculpture shows that it is best toevaluate the art as an archetypal of a larger propensity inHellenistic period. Both archeological evidence and archival sourcesshow a great connection of the sculpture to the Hellenistic period.The historical, cultural, function, audience, and visual forms of thestatue shows the great reception to the Venusde Milo.In Greek time, the statue depicted the pleasures of love for youngmale spectators approaching the stage of marriage. By exploring thesculpture these men could remember the variable clarifications of thechoice put forward in numerous texts they studied. Thus, the statue’sillustration of divine beauty and clarity of the society’scivilization.

Bibliography

&quotHellenisticGreek Sculpture&quot. 2016. Visual-Arts-Cork.Com.http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/antiquity/greek-sculpture-hellenistic-period.htm.

Chaniotis,Angelos. Warin the Hellenistic world: a social and cultural history.Vol. 8. John Wiley &amp Sons, 2008.

Kubale,Victoria. &quotLaocoön and His Sons.&quot In Fresh Perspectives onGraeco-Roman Visual Culture-Proceedings of an InternationalConference at the Humboldt-Universität (Q-Kolleg-2013).Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 2015.

Stewart,Andrew. Artin the Hellenistic world: an introduction.Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Swami,Viren. &quotThe missing arms of Vénus de Milo: reflections on thescience of attractiveness.&quot (2007).

Listof figures

Fig.1. Aphrodite, Melos, Ca. 150-50 BC

Fig.2. Laocoön and His Sons sculpture

Fig.3. A hand holding an apple, unearthed together with the Venusde Milo

Fig.4. The left side of the Venusde Milo

1 Viren Swami. &quotThe missing arms of Vénus de Milo: reflections on the science of attractiveness.&quot (2007), 33.

2 Ibid, 34

3 Ibid, 37

4 Ibid

5 Ibid

6 Angelos Chaniotis. War in the Hellenistic world: a social and cultural history (Vol. 8. John Wiley &amp Sons, 2008), 78.

7 Ibid

8 Ibid, 79

9Victoria Kubale. &quotLaocoön and His Sons.&quot In Fresh Perspectives on Graeco-Roman Visual Culture-Proceedings of an International Conference at the Humboldt-Universität (Q-Kolleg-2013). Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 2015, 6.

10 Ibid, 7.

11 Vctoria Kubale. &quotLaocoön and His Sons.&quot 6

12 Andrew Stewart. Art in the Hellenistic world: an introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2014), 169.

Ibid, 180.

Ibid., 180

13 &quotHellenistic Greek Sculpture&quot. 2016. Visual-Arts-Cork.Com. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/antiquity/greek-sculpture-hellenistic-period.htm, 1.

14 Ibid, 2.

15 Victoria Kubale. &quotLaocoön and His Sons.&quot 16