The long line of bathers in art history may, at times, reflect the distant, numinous origins of this trope. The monumental female nude as a genre can be traced back to a specific work, the Aphrodite of Knidos by Praxiteles fourth century bc , now lost but known through copies before that, male nudes were common, but female figures were clothed. A marble statuette of Aphrodite Anadyomene bc—70 ad dispenses with iconographic trappings; the association did not need to be spelled out.
Cat. 13 Statue of the Aphrodite of Knidos
He places her on a mysterious seashore. When she lifts her arms to wring out her hair, the gesture emphasizes the opulent curves of her body, yet her demeanor is cool, and the overall mood is classical. The Roman Venus was based on the Greek Aphrodite, although she acquired some fresh qualities in moving to a new pantheon. Venus was associated with all kinds of propitious events, from victory in war to favorable throws of dice. The classical deities, in addition to their specialization in areas such as love, war or craft, maintained strategic alliances with cities and states.
A marble statue of Aphrodite —38 bc is a superb copy of a late-fourth-century bc original, probably erected in Corinth as a guardian of the polis. The figure is half nude, with graceful drapery at the hip. Her hair is pulled back in a chignon, she wears a diadem and once carried a shield. The gods and goddesses had important civic functions in the ancient world.
We see vestiges of this tradition in the rhetorical and iconographic figures of Justice, Victory and Liberty. Some deities seem more suitable than others for public iconography in the post-classical world. Of course, the Romans celebrated her in public spaces like the forum and, very appropriately, the baths. But she seemed particularly at home in private settings, in gardens and villas, luxurious surroundings where art and beauty were appreciated for their own sake. The aesthetic response is understandable when we look at a magnificent marble in the Boston exhibition. Statue of a woman in the guise of Venus mid-first century—early second century ad is a tour de force of wet drapery.
The diaphanous garment clings to and molds the body underneath, while the rippling fabric suggests the vitality of moving water. The Roman appreciation for figures such as this, while still rooted in ancient piety, begins to suggest modern connoisseurship. Yet, the primary focus remains the complex goddess. A host of issues—among them, nudity, sexuality and myth— swirl around her.
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Examining those issues may shed light on contemporary painters who champion a return to beauty and, in some cases, consider themselves classicists. Why did the classical pantheon inspire artists for nearly two millennia, and why do artists today, for the most part, shy away from this iconography? Some of the finest painters working today are reviving the pedagogic methods of the Beaux-Arts academies, with classical figure drawing at the heart of the enterprise, but, in general, they do not rely on traditional subject matter. Whether they rejected or accepted—uncritically or with transformative imagination—the ancient pantheon, nineteenth-century artists were fully versed in the stories and iconography of the gods.
In our society, we can no longer take that cultural literacy for granted. Stylistically, too, the neo-traditionalist project is complicated by the competing legacy of nineteenth-century Realism, which especially conditions contemporary approaches to the figure. There are, however, some contemporary painters who findin classical subjects. One of the most articulate is David Ligare, who began making paintings based on Greco-Roman mythology and philosophy in Ligare has given the question of nudity considerable thought.
The current disenchantment of nudity certainly factors into the difficulties contemporary artists face when presenting the unclothed figure.
Marble Statue Of Aphrodite Essay
He sets up a kind of stage platform with a side wall. The Aphrodite of Knidos established a canon for the proportions of the female nude, and inspired many copies to follow its lead, the best of which is considered to be the Colonna Knidia, which is in the Vatican's Pio-Clementine Museum. A Roman copy, it is not thought to match the polished beauty of the original, which was destroyed in a disastrous fire at Constantinople in AD According to an account by Pliny the Elder , Praxiteles sculpted both a nude statue and a draped statue of Aphrodite.
The city of Kos purchased the draped statue, because they felt the nude version was indecent and reflected poorly on their city, while the city of Knidos purchased the nude statue. Pliny claims that the statue brought fame to Knidos. Coins issued in Knidos depicting the statue seem to confirm this claim. Praxiteles was alleged to have used the courtesan Phryne as a model for the statue, which added to the gossip surrounding its origin. The statue became so widely known and copied that in a humorous anecdote the goddess Aphrodite herself came to Knidos to see it. A lyric epigram of Antipater of Sidon  places a hypothetical question on the lips of the goddess herself:.
Paris , Adonis , and Anchises saw me naked, Those are all I know of, but how did Praxiteles contrive it? The statue became a tourist attraction in spite of being a cult image , and a patron of the Knidians. Nicomedes I of Bithynia offered to pay off the enormous debts of the city of Knidos in exchange for the statue, but the Knidians rejected his offer.
The statue would have been polychromed ,  and was so lifelike that it even aroused men sexually, as witnessed by the tradition that a young man broke into the temple at night and attempted to copulate with the statue, leaving a stain on it. This story is recorded in the dialogue Erotes section 15 , traditionally attributed to Lucian of Samosata. The floor of the court had not been doomed to sterility by a stone pavement, but on the contrary, it burst with fertility, as behooves Aphrodite: fruit trees with verdant foliage rose to prodigious heights, their limbs weaving a lofty vault. The myrtle, beloved by the goddess, reached up its berry-laden branches no less than the other trees which so gracefully stretched out.
They never know foliage grown old, their boughs always being thick with leaves. To tell the truth, you can notice among them some infertile trees, but they have beauty as their fruit. Such were the cypress and the planes which towered to the heavens, as well as the tree of Daphnis , who once fled Aphrodite but now has come here to seek refuge.
Ivies entwine themselves lovingly around each of these trees. Heavy clusters of grapes hang from the gnarled vines: indeed, Aphrodite is only more attractive when united with Bacchus; their pleasures are sweeter for being mixed together. Apart, they have less spice. Under the welcome shade of the boughs, comfortable beds await the celebrants— actually the better people of the town only rarely frequent these green halls, but the common crowds jostle there on festive days, to yield publicly to the joys of love.
Pseudo-Lucian, Erotes. When we had exhausted the charms of these places we pressed on into the temple itself.
The goddess stands in the center; her statue made of marble from Paros. Her lips are slightly parted by a lofty smile. Nothing hides her beauty, which is entirely exposed, other than a furtive hand veiling her modesty. The art of the sculptor has succeeded so well that it seems the marble has shed its hardness to mold the grace of her limbs Pseudo-Lucian, Erotes. Praxiteles created two statues: one fully clothed and the other naked. It is said that the cloaked version was the first to be sold.
They erected it in an alfresco shrine. The original Aphrodite of Knidos is depicted diffidently screening her chests and genitalias.
An Analysis of the Hellenistic Statue of Aphrodite from Melos
Praxiteles used this thought to work out the issue of demoing a powerful goddess figure and a symbol of love and gender in the nude. In the current sculpture. The goddess looks as if she is surprised and perplexed at her bath. The caput.
The original sculpture shows the goddess stretching her weaponries forward to safeguard her pubic bone and chests. It is a gesture that conceals and high spots her gender. The surface of the statue seems untouched by cleaning or enduring. The left pes stands on a rectangular pedestal. The mentum. The set used to bind the knot goes to the forepart in one emphasis. There are no earrings since her ears are non pierced.