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Snake Goddess from a palace at Knossos,
c. 1600 BC
"The term "Venus figurine" is used to describe the more than 200 small statuettes of voluptuous female figures that have been found at Upper Paleolithic sites across Europe and some parts of Asia. Although Venus figurines pre-date myths about the goddess Venus by thousands of years, the name is derived from theories that associate these figurines with fertility and sexuality, two traits associated with the Roman goddess.
(...) One of the best known Venus figurines is the Venus of Willendorf, named for the location where she was found in Austria. The Willendorf Venus is around 25,000 years old, making it one of the oldest pieces of art in the world. The faceless, voluptuous, female figure is considered typical of this type of pre-historic art.
Venus of Willendorf
The Venus of Laussel is also carved from limestone and shares many of the traits of a Venus figurine while remaining unique in terms of prehistoric art. Found in France and believed to be between 18,000 and 20,000 years old, this Venus is a rare example of a prehistoric bas-relief.
Like many of these figures, the Laussel Venus was once covered in red ochre, an aspect that suggests a connection with menstruation and fertility. Traces of this ochre are still visible to the naked eye. She is holding a curved horn inscribed with 13 lines that may represent lunar or menstrual cycles.
Venus of Laussel
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"The two famous figurines of the Minoan earth goddess with the snakes, possibly representing a mother goddess and a daughter, are exquisite examples of Minoan miniature sculpture.
Two Snake Goddesses from the palace of Knossos, c. 1600 BC
(faience, 34.2 cm and 29.5 cm high)
The smallest of the two shows the goddess standing, holding snakes in both of her raised hands. She wears the elaborate Minoan garment - a tight vest with sleeves, which bares her ample bosom, and a long skirt with seven horizontal tiers and a short apron - and an equally elaborate head-dress on which a panther sits."
Snake Goddess from the palace at Knossos, c. 1600 BC
Aphrodite of Knidos was made by Praxiteles in the 4th century BC. It is an over-life-sized work sculpted in Parian marble.
It is historically important because it was the first female nude in three-dimensional and monumental form and was renowned as the finest statue in the world by Roman author Pliny the Elder, as well as Praxiteles’ finest work.
Aphrodite of Knidos, c. 4th century BC
The Venus de Milo was discovered in 1820 on the island of Melos in the south-western Cyclades. The goddess originally wore metal jewelry — bracelet, earrings, and headband — of which only the fixation holes remain. The marble may have been embellished with (now faded) polychromy. The arms were never found.
(Crédits : Dmitri Kessel/The LIFE Picture Collection)
The goddess is shrouded in mystery, her attitude a persistent enigma. 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.
Venus de Milo, ca 100 BC
Isis-Aphrodite is a form of the great goddess Isis that emphasizes the fertility aspects associated with Aphrodite. She was concerned with marriage and childbirth and, following very ancient pharaonic prototypes, also with rebirth.
Elaborate accessories, including an exaggerated calathos (the crown of Egyptian Greco-Roman divinities) emblazoned with a tiny disk and horns of Isis, heighten the effect of her nudity.
Figure of Isis-Aphrodite (ca 150 AD)
Popular already in the 3rd to 2nd centuries B.C., they continued to be made in Roman times. Dating technology places this piece in the Roman period, probably about AD 150.
This Roman copy of Athena Parthenos is a replica of the Phidias statue that adorned the Parthenon. The original statue (that has not survived) was made of gold and ivory and was about 12 m high. Known as the Varvakeion Athena, it is the best preserved such copy. It is dated to 200–250 AD.
Varvakeion Athena (200–250 AD)