Aphrodite of Melos
Greek artists tried to create ideal beauty. Statues were not made to represent real, living people, but they were carved to show how the human body should look like. The picture in front of you is a sculpture of Aphrodite of Melos (Venus de Milo, in Roman mythology). For hundreds of years, the statue remained buried in an underground cavern, where it had been damaged and discovered in two parts. It was in 1820 AD (anno domini) when a peasant named Yorgos found her body on the Aegean island of Melos.
Later, the sculpture was taken out of Greece under unclear circumstances and was taken to the Louvre Museum in Paris, France where it was admired by the millions of visitor’s of the country. This sculpture is considered by many art historians to be the ideal of Hellenistic beauty. It was carved out of marble and stands approximately 205 cm (6 ft 10 in) high. By looking at her we think, not of wisdom, or force, or power, but just of beauty. She stands resting the weight of her body on one foot, and advancing the other on a bent knee.
The posture causes the figure to sway slightly to one side, describing a fine curved line. The lower limbs are draped, but the upper part of the body is uncovered and in some mysterious way, the sculptor has imparted to the marble a seeming softness as of real flesh. The head is as exquisitely set as a flower on its stalk. The parted hair is drawn back in rippling waves over the low forehead. The eyes are not very wide open, having something of a dreamy languor (tiredness).
Melting eyes” are indeed characteristic of Aphrodite, and an analytical critic has explained that this effect is produced in sculpture by a “slight elevation of the inner corner of the lower eyelid. ” The nose is perfectly cut. The mouth and chin are molded in adorable curves. Many wise heads have been puzzled to know the position of the missing arms. A hand holding an apple was also found on Melos, and this may have been a part of the figure; if so, Aphrodite was represented as the goddess of the “apple island”. Some have thought that the goddess carried a shield, and others ave fancied her holding the traditional apple. There have also been many discussions as to the date of the work. Now if the statue had been made in the fifth century B. C. , the goddess would have been fully draped; if in the fourth century, entirely without drapery. Our sculptor then belonged to neither of these periods, and combined the characteristics of both.
It is a fault on his part to have placed the drapery in an impossible position, whence in actual life it would immediately fall of its own weight. The beautiful body rising above the drapery reminds us of the myth of Aphrodite emerging from the sea foam. Aphrodite was thus born and arose on a large shell, which was then carried to land,). Her beauty is a union of strength and sweetness, a perfect embodiment of a nature at harmony with itself and its surroundings. Venus de Milo (Aphrodite of Melos), famous marble statue of Aphrodite found on the Greek island of Melos in 1820 and now in the Louvre Museum in Paris. Although it is of a grandiose style that recalls the Classical Period, the Venus de Milo is from the late Hellenistic Age. Beside it stood a herma (stone pillar) on which the arm of the goddess rested.
On the base of the herma was inscribed the signature of an artist, Alexandros, or Agesandros, from Antioch on the Meander, and by this signature the work can be dated from 150 bc to 100 bc. A hand holding an apple was also found on Melos, and this may have been a part of the figure; if so, Aphrodite was represented as the goddess of the “apple island” (Greek melos, “apple”). The original on which the artist based his work was probably an Aphrodite of the 4th century bc, which showed the goddess holding the shield of Ares with both hands. In the Melos statue, however, Aphrodite may have held her garment in her (now lost) right hand.