The marble statue of Aphrodite, which is also known as the “Venus Genetrix,” is located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. It is a Roman reproduction of the original Greek sculpture, made of bronze and is dated to the late fifth century B. C. E. , which is the Late Classical period. The museum approximates that its creator is Kallimachos, or Callimachus. Scholars state that there is not much information about this Greek sculptor. However, it is known that he lived in the second half of the fifth century B. C. E. n Corinth. 1 It is thought that he is the author of this particular work of art because Kallimachos seemed to be one of the followers of Polykleitos, who developed the pose, in which Venus Genetrix is depicted. This feature clearly identifies the statue to the Late Classical period because Greek artists of the fifth and the fourth centuries made representations of various figures, which conveyed a vitality of life, a sense of permanence, clarity and harmony. This is so because they wanted to create images of perfect human bodies.
Greek artists of the Late Classical period idealized objects of their works to show how they should look like in their opinions. For that purpose Polykleitos of Argos developed a set rules that calculate body proportions in respect to perfection, which artists sought for. The way Aphrodite is portrayed is like she is walking. The contrapposto stance is also clearly visible here because her body seems to be borne on one leg. These characteristics show that the author made a great effort to enliven this statue, so this work looks really naturalistic.
This sculpture is easily classified under the Late Classical period because looking at this piece of art we can assume that probably Greek artists of that time were fascinated with the nature of human bodies and their movements. Nowadays the current condition of this statue is not very good because her arms and head were mostly destroyed, and it is impossible to see her original hand gestures and face expression. So, we can only rely on some speculations to imagine how the original sculpture looked like. In the museum there is an approximate sketch of how it could look like.
According to it, Aphrodite lifted her right hand to hold a free end of her himation, which is a cloak, and kept her other hand raised to the front as in an offering gesture. The museum implies that she probably hold an apple in that left hand. Venus Genetrix wears chiton, which was the most elemental dress type in the Classical Greece. This robe was basically made from two rectangular pieces of fabric that were stitched together. It was either pinned, sewn, or buttoned at a shoulder. 4 The sculptor made a very detailed representation of the goddess’s clothes because we can see every fold of her dress.
It is really visible where this type of clothes has edges and where it is folded between the figure’s legs. So, this gives an accurate representation of what women of Classical Greece wore. Also the dress underlines all perfect curves of Venus’s body, which makes it even more naturalistic. Kallimachos portrays the goddess in such a way that she is not fully dressed in her chiton. The left side of her body is shown half naked and her left breast is not covered with the robe. This is probably to signify Aphrodite’s importance as a fertility figure in the people’s beliefs.
So, the subject matter that is clearly shown in this statue is fertility and reproduction. Ancient Greeks believed that female nudity embodied the divinity of procreation. 5 They probably borrowed these images from people in the Near East, who lived earlier in prehistoric times and had their own analogy of Venus that was Ishtar. Besides this statue there are numerous others, which depict Aphrodite in various poses and scenes. This implies that the theme of fertility was one of the most important in Greek culture because obviously survival of their nation depended on it.
As it was mentioned above probably originally the goddess was in the pose of offering an apple. Probably this sculpture is an allusion to the Trojan War myth where Aphrodite gave this fruit to the Trojan prince, Paris, as an award. Also it may have even a more symbolic meaning with respect to the fertility theme. Maybe the artist wanted to portray the goddess giving new lives and different pleasures to the people, who worshiped to her. Also the epithet “Venus Genetrix is significant here while discussing her fertility role because it means “Mother Venus”? in Latin. So, the intended function of this work for Romans was to show their divine origins because, according to The Aeneid by Virgil, this goddess was Aeneas’s mother and Aeneas was Augustus’s ancestor. For Greeks depiction of this sculpture was stressing the importance of fertility. As Greeks and Romans were both polytheistic and shared common gods but with different names, the function of this piece of art was also religious because probably this statue was located in some sort of a temple.
In conclusion, this work of art conveys messages regarding the importance of fertility because it is indeed significant for the survival of current nations and existing of their next generations. The statute reflects various contemporary ideas in such a way the theme of fertility and reproduction is always present. For example, it was present in prehistoric times when “Venus from Willendorf ? was created, in the Classical World when this sculpture of Aphrodite came to existence, and it is present nowadays.
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