She was born during the Hellenistic period, that auspicious time when Greek influence on culture and democracy extended far beyond the Greek Isles, thanks to the power and vision of Alexander the Great. After his death, artists began to focus on “the individual and specific rather than the ideal and general. They turned increasingly away from the heroic and to the everyday. The appeal to the emotions…with dramatic subjects and poses, became more pronounced [during the Hellenistic Period]” (Art History by Marilyn Stokstad, 1995 – my life-changing art history book from undergrad).
Enter Aphrodite of Melos or, as more commonly known, Venus de Milo. She is one of the trinity of great women of the Louvre which also includes The Winged Victory of Samothrace and, of course, the Mona Lisa. Sculpted of marble, she stands 6ft 10in (2.1 meters). She holds herself in a disarming Praxitelean “S” curve. Her arms were not found when she was dug up in a field on the island of Melos, in Cyclades, Greece, in 1820, but some fragments found nearby suggest she was holding out an apple in her right hand and in her left, she may have held the highly-polished Shield of Ares, which she used (in a familiar legend) to admire her lovely visage. The shield may have rested against her left thigh and this could explain the unusual forward projection of that left knee. Of course, she could have just been striking a purposeful, sensual pose, as she was known to do every now and then.
When I first met this voluptuous beauty (an unforgettable experience), I – along with the many, many others milling about her in Room 7 of the Parthenon Room in the Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities section of the Musee du Louvre – was immediately entranced; by her larger-than-life persona and her erotic femininity (wow, that gown slipping off of her hips). Capturing a photo of her full figure was painfully difficult as she still – just as certainly as she did those many centuries ago – seduces and draws close all who see her and those darned other tourists kept getting in my way!
Take a peak at another perspective.