By Mary Buckner
The Aphrodite of Melos, also commonly known as the Venus De Milo, was found on the island of Milo in 1820. It is a sculpture that is shrouded in mystery. At the moment, researchers are still unsure of who its creator is and really of whom the statue depicts. It is thought to be a sculpture depicting the Greek Goddess Aphrodite, but some scholars have also speculated that it could be the Goddess Artemis depending on what she was holding in her hand, or even the Goddess Amphitrite, a sea goddess who was created on the island of Milo. Because of the damage sustained to the sculpture, specifically the missing arms, the statue gives very few clues as to who is depicted. The clues that are present do suggest that it could be of the Goddess of Beauty, Aphrodite. This is because Aphrodite is usually depicted half naked, as the Aphrodite of Melos is. This specific statue also has a soft, sensual figure that suggests the pure feminine beauty that so often is connected with Aphrodite. There is also a serenity and melodic beauty in the statue’s face, that suggests she was created during the Hellenistic age. The statue is currently housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
Since its discovery, the Aphrodite of Melos (Venus De Milo) has traveled quite a bit. After a peasant first discovered it in 1820, an officer in the French navy, Jules Dumont d’Unville, saw the statue and decided that this piece of work was of historical significance. He arranged to purchase the statue with the aid of the French ambassador to Turkey and bring it home to France. However, before the transaction could be made, the peasant who originally found the statue sold it to a local priest. This priest had purchased it as a gift for a friend in Constantinople and was going to send the sculpture off on a boat. Yet, before it was loaded onto the ship, one of the ambassador’s aids got to it and was able to strike a deal with the priest, which permitted the delivery of the statue to d’Unville. Once on French soil, the Aphrodite of Melos was taken to the Louvre where it was restored and cleaned. The Marquis de Riviere then presented it to King Louis XVIII, but a year later the King returned it to the Louvre.
The Aphrodite of Melos (Venus De Milo) is approximately a 6’10” statue made of Parian marble that celebrates the Hellenistic age and style. It is a statue that is both shrouded in mystery and adorned by its many years. By looking at the head it is clear to see the peaceful, calm look and to notice the highly detailed hair, and precisely cut features. As one observes from the eye line and above, the sculpture becomes more plain and simple. Finally, the lower part of the statue most demonstrates the work’s rough draperies. Our book describes that the
“celebrated statue represent classical tendency, derived from Greek tradition, in Hellenistic art. The head is executed in the pure Hellenistic style…However, the body with its frank sensuality and its rumpled draperies, is clearly Hellenistic style” (Matthews 110).
I love this fascinating statue. The beautiful face, filled with serenity and peacefulness, causes me to feel and share a pleasant ease as well. I also love its history that is wrapped in this puzzling enigma, which really gets me to think about this piece’s back story and all the crazy and different places it has been. It also puts a desire in me, a desire to one-day travel and see this piece in person. The Aphrodite of Melos is a beautiful statue that not only attracts the eye to its outer beauty, but also puzzles the mind because of its mysterious origins. It is truly a masterpiece if not only for its craftsmanship, but for its wonderful lore.
A picture of the Aphrodite of Melos can be found in our book on page 110