These are all the same woman.
Which one do you recognize?
How did the Venus de Milo, an armless ancient statue,
米洛斯的维纳斯 即断臂的维纳斯 是如何
go from being lost on a tiny Greek island
to an international icon?
It’s part of a story that spans centuries
and a possible cover-up that starts with a missing piece right here.
This sculpture’s so popular that you can easily find a 3d scan of it,
that’s really good quality and then get it printed.
And the sculpture itself provides a clue to her popularity
because it contains her history.
I really hope I don’t screw this up.
The story is hidden right here in the seam.
In 1820, a Greek farmer discovered
pieces of a woman carved from marble on his land.
He sold what he found to the French for about 1,000 Francs
-today that’d be around $11,000 US – enough for a decent used car.
They took this home – a Venus, split in two,
along with some other scattered marble fragments.
Venus has a bunch of imperfections:
the arms were not still attached.
Other flaws marred the body.
She was missing her earlobes, probably taken by looters.
A foot was gone, right here.
And a likely base – called a plinth – had broken off.
还有这个 也许该称作底座的基部 断掉了
That would have been right here.
Each half was meant to be joined in the center with iron tenons –
imagine two metal rods joining the two halves.
The rest of the parts likely fell off due to age.
When she was assembled, her scale was really impressive,
At 6’7 inches high and with features like a 12 and a half inch foot.
That’s large. Shaq-esque foot.
But Venus’s looks weren’t the most important factor in her success.
For that you’ve got to look to the circumstances in which she was dug up,
and the French art world — it was in turmoil.
This drawing of the Sphinx was made
by Napoleon Bonaparte’s personal art-looter, Vivant Denon.
He drew it during his tour of Napoleon’s Egypt,
while he was searching for art to plunder.
Classical art was considered the most desirable
– a tie to the greatness of Rome and Greece.
While Napoleon spent 20 years trying to take over the world,
Denon took art from everywhere Napoleon succeeded.
He directed the Louvre museum under Napoleon’s rule,
and filled it with the art that he stole.
When Napoleon lost his throne,
that massive cache of classical art had to be returned to its owners.
Suddenly, the Louvre and France had a huge problem.
For example, the Vatican got back Laocoon and his sons
and the Apollo Belvedere,
and the Italians were reunited with their own looted Venus, Venus de Midici.
The Louvre was empty, but it was desperate.
Then, five years later,
Venus turned up on an island in Greece.
The French were willing to do just about anything
to regain that classical art that they lost when Napoleon got kicked out.
Even massage the truth.
Remember that plinth, the one that got broken off the statue?
We know what the plinth looked like thanks to early drawings.
By the sculptor’s name on it and some other clues,
it definitively dated the Venus to 130-100 B.C,
what is called the Hellenistic era.
That was a problem.
It was 200 years after the Classical Period
– the one that the critics loved.
So the French tried to hide it.
The plinth “got lost” before Venus went on display at the Louvre in 1821.
因此 1821年 维纳斯在卢浮宫展览时 底座就已经“丢失”了
With the plinth taken care of, the museum’s director
declared Venus was definitely “classical” not Hellenistic.
And the Louvre supported critics
who called Venus a work of classical Greek genius.
They gave her a prime spot in the gallery and
insisted it was certainly the well-known goddess Venus
-even though she didn’t have a label.
Competing interpretations of what Venus’s missing arms were doing surfaced,
and the Louvre supported the ones they thought made Venus look most important.
All of this worked.
Venus held a prime spot in the galleries and…became iconic.
The Louvre insisted that she was classical,
all the way until 1951, when they finally reversed course.
Her unique fame was the result of the Louvre’s branding campaign
to regain national pride.
It’s that history that makes her the Venus we recognize.
Maybe the history is the reason she’s still worth seeing today.
OK, so one little public service announcement.
If you want to get your own Venus de Milo 3d printed,
I put a link to a really nice model in the description below.
And I actually got mine done at the local library.
So maybe you can too, and don’t make the same mistake I did,
get yours in hot pink or lime green.