Marble Figure of Venus

GBP 2,900.00

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Object Description

Italian, 19th century, After the Antique
Venus de’ Medici
77 cm. / 30 ¼ ins high.

This marble figure is after the famous statue known as the Venus de’ Medici, which takes pride of place in the centre of a grand room called the Tribuna in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

In the original marble, Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty known to the Romans as Venus, attempts to conceal her nudity by covering her breasts and genitalia with her hands, in an act of presumed modesty. By her side, two winged Cupids are shown riding a dolphin, suggesting that she has just emerged from the sea, as at her birth.

The Venus de’ Medici, which is now catalogued as a Hellenistic copy of the second or first century BC, is based on a lost fourth-century BC statue by the famed ancient Greek sculptor, Praxiteles, known as the Aphrodite of Cnidos, which was celebrated in antiquity as one of the first life-sized representations of the nude female form. The Venus de’ Medici is a variant of Praxiteles’s statue, a type known as the Venus Pudica (the “modest Venus”), since here she is hiding her breasts and genitals, whereas in the Aphrodite of Cnidos she is only covering her genitals with one hand, whilst the other hand holds a towel or drapery held over a vase.

The Venus was first recorded in the Villa Medici in Rome in 1638, although it is thought to have been acquired some years earlier by Ferdinando de’ Medici. It was taken to Florence in 1677 and by 1680 was being displayed in the Tribuna, where it has remained ever since, with the exception of a brief period in the early nineteenth century, when it was confiscated by the French and taken to the Musée Napoléon in Paris. In 1816 it was returned to Florence under the Treaty of Vienna.

The present figure exhibits fine anatomical form, with its subtle modelling of the serpentine left arm, taut stomach muscles, swaying hips and bent right leg in contrapposto. This, together with the well-polished surface of the marble and slightly square-shaped toes overlapping the edge of the thin base it stands on, suggest that it dates to the first half of the nineteenth century, prior to the more mechanical reproductions common in the later nineteenth century (where the modelling is usually more static and the base often thicker).

The lightly distressed surface and missing right hand lend the figure an attractive antique appearance, resembling a fragmentary ancient statue.

Object Literature

Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique (New Haven, Yale, 1982), pp. 325-28, fig. 173

Object Condition

Loss to the right arm below the wrist (previously restored, as suggested by the metal rod), the left arm repaired at the elbow, loss to the end of the ring finger of the left hand. Some dirt, minor chips and staining to the marble throughout, suggesting a period of outdoor exposure.

Object Details

Dealer Opening Times

By appointment only.

Dealer Contact

+44 (0)7768 395500
+44 (0)7768 395500

Dealer Location

London W1 (Mayfair), by appointment.

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