Venus de Milo also known as Aphrodite of Milos is an ancient Greek statue and one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture.
Sculpture was created around 100 BC, it is believed to depict Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty (Venus to the Romans).
According to an inscription on the sculpture’s original plinth that mysteriously disappeared soon after the discovery, it was sculpted by “Alexandros, son of Menides, citizen of Antioch of Maeander…”
The statue is made from Parian marble, slightly larger than life size at 203 cm (6 ft 8 in) high.
In 1820, a local farmer and a young French naval officer on the island of Milos (also Melos, or Milo) in the Aegean Sea discovered an ancient sculpture of Aphrodite. Known today as the Venus de Milo, the sculpture is one of the most celebrated examples of ancient Greek sculpture, and is on display in the Louvre in Paris.
The Louvre initially promoted the Venus de Milo as a masterpiece from the Greek classical era. Now, however, the Venus de Milo is thought to have been produced around 100 B.C., during a later period known as the Hellenistic age.
As for the Venus de Milo’s missing limbs, there long have been claims they were broken off in 1820 during a fight on the shore of Melos, as French and Turkish sailors vied for possession of the artwork. But, in fact, most scholars today believe the sculpture’s arms already were missing when it was found by Voutier and the farmer.
The goddess is shrouded in mystery, her attitude a persistent enigma. The missing pieces of marble and absence of attributes made the restoration and identification of the statue difficult.
A whole range of positions have been suggested: leaning against a pillar, resting her elbow on Ares’ shoulder, or holding a variety of attributes. According to whether she held a bow or an amphora, she was Artemis or a Danaid.She is popularly thought to represent Aphrodite, because of her half-nakedness and her sensual, feminine curves. She may have held an apple — an allusion to the Judgement of Paris — a crown, a shield, or a mirror in which she admired her reflection. However she might also be the sea goddess Amphitrite, who was venerated on the island of Milo.
The statue has sometimes been thought to be a replica, freely inspired by an original from the late 4th century BC, because of its resemblance to the Aphrodite of Capua (Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples) — a similar style Roman work, copy of a Greek original.
The great fame of the Aphrodite of Milos during the nineteenth century was not simply the result of its
admitted beauty; it also owed much to a major propaganda effort by the French authorities.
By the autumn of 1939, war threatened to descend on Paris, so Venus de Milo along with some other priceless pieces, such as Winged Victory of Samothrace and Michelangelo’s Slaves, were whisked away for safekeeping at various châteaux in the French countryside.
The statue has greatly influenced masters of modern art; one prime example is Salvador Dali’s Venus de Milo with Drawers.
In 2015, The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones explained the piece’s appeal thusly, “The Venus de Milo is an accidental surrealist masterpiece. Her lack of arms makes her strange and dreamlike. She is perfect but imperfect, beautiful but broken—the body as a ruin. That sense of enigmatic incompleteness has transformed an ancient work of art into a modern one.”