Residing in the Louvre Museum in Paris is a famous ancient statue known today as the Venus de Milo sculpted sometime between 130 and 100 BC, known for missing both arms. What is the origin of this statue, who does it represent and why was this figure so important?
Venus de Milo actually lost part of an arm (one was already missing) and the original plinth following its discovery. It is believed to be the work of Alexandros of Antioch and was discovered in 1820 on the Greek island of Milos. In 1815 after Napoleon’s defeat the French returned a looted statue the Medici Venus to Italy, considered one of the greatest surviving classical sculptures. After they acquired the Venus de Milo, the French authorities promoted it above their previous treasure in a successful propaganda campaign leading to the statues fame today.
Although given the Roman name of Venus, the statue represents Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, passion and procreation. Daughter of Zeus and Dione, Aphrodite has had several lovers and consorts including Hermes, Poseidon and Adonis. No doubt theses were attracted by her beauty and powers of seduction. Her main festival was the Aphrodisia, celebrated annually in midsummer. She was also worshipped as a warrior goddess as well as the goddess of prostitutes. Another common name for Aphrodite is Pandemos, meaning “For all the folk”. Indeed, the common people prayed to Aphrodite to help them with persuasion in the art of seduction. Her influence is still acknowledged today, as those who want to arouse their passions eat food described as an aphrodisiac.
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