Ariadne Galleries

Figure of Venus
Period: Second century AD
Culture: Roman
Material: Bronze with gold torc
Dimensions: 21.7 cm H incl. base
 
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Standing regally with her head held high, and her gaze directed upward and to the right, this magnificent personal statuette of the Goddess of Love contains the power and exquisite detailing of an over-lifesized sculpture. With her voluptuous hour-glass figure, she stands contrapposto upon an integral socle plinth, the stance alluringly accentuating her feminine curvature. She wears only a diaphanous mantle, sensuously falling as it tantalizingly clings to her hips before it inevitably falls and reveals her nudity in its entirety. Her sandaled feet emerge from below the fish-tail hem of the undulating drapery. 


The goddess’ pose and positioning of her arms, with her right hand before her breasts and the left lowered toward her pudendum, has come to be known as the Venus Pudica, indicating her feigned modesty. It has been interpreted that she is either preparing for or emerging from her bath. Some versions portray her entirely nude, others show her with drapery that wraps around her waist but then splays, revealing her legs, while others, such as the present example, have her legs fully enveloped in the mantle, pulled taut to her form below.


Known as Aphrodite to the Greeks, and Venus to the Romans, the goddess was celebrated as the embodiment of beauty, fertility and sensuality. As epitomized in the present piece, her physical form in art alluringly captured these principal aspects. This bronze statue is undeniably a tour de force of a virtuoso artist. Every aspect of the composition is a testament to its exceptional quality. The coiffure is elegantly rendered, loosely pulled back from her centre-part, bound in a chignon at the nape of her neck and a top knot, and crowned by a finely embellished crescentic diadem. She is adorned in armlets and a twisted torc fashioned of gold. Her idealising visage is punctuated by her serene, dream-like gaze, and her graceful neck captures the requisite ‘Venus’-lines. This petite statue of the goddess undeniably exhibits the full retinue of her most desirable aspects.


A figurine such as this would likely have been placed in the private shrine, or lararium, in the home of a lavishly wealthy Roman family. Only a patron of means could afford a bronze of this grandeur. The flickering of the ancient candle light would catch the surface of the shimmering patina, illuminating Venus’ sexuality and playing on the juxtaposition of her smooth skin with the rippling surface of her drapery. It would have made the goddess appear to be moving, teasing her patron that her full glory may in fact come to reveal itself before them.
 

Provenance

Private collection of Mr Lawton, acquired 1960s; thence by descent to his son J. Lawton, Surrey.