Greece, Hellenistic period, ca. 2nd to 1st century BCE. A finely carved white marble sculpture of the draped lower body of a female, perhaps a Muse or Aphrodite (Roman Venus), the goddess of romantic love, who was traditionally depicted in the round with a nude torso, her lower body partially draped as was favored by Greek Hellenistic sculptors, i.e. Alexandros of Antioch's "Venus de Milo" (130 to 100 BCE) thought to be inspired by Praxiteles' entirely nude the "Aphrodite of Knidos" (ca. 360-330 BCE). She stands with her curvaceous right hip swayed outward and left bent leg, the voluminous folds of her diaphemous chiton cascading over her long legs, her naturalistically delineated toes and thick-soled sandals with V-shaped straps between her big and first toes peeking out from the hemline, her right hand on her hip, the thumb widely separated from the fingers - all upon an integral oval base. The sculptor of this piece delineated the beautiful figure with the utmost sensitivity and skill. Size: 17" W x 29" H (43.2 cm x 73.7 cm)
Nude or partially nude statues of Aphrodite/Venus made quite a statement in their day (as well as beyond), because they were among the first sculptures to portray a goddess in the nude, a practice that previously had only been reserved for males. Women had been depicted in the nude on earlier Greek pottery paintings; however, those women were typically slave girls or courtesans rather than deities. As an image of a sensual Aphrodite, this example would have been regarded as quite erotic during antiquity. Speaking of the Aphrodite of Knidos for example, Pliny observed that some men were "overcome with love for the statue." Venus/Aphrodite has inspired countless seductive sculptural masterworks throughout art history, among the most famous, Attic sculptor Praxiteles's "Aphrodite of Knidos" (ca. 360 to 330 BCE), "Lely's Venus" (ca. 100 to 199 CE), a Roman copy of a Greek original which is now lost) named for the painter Sir Peter Lily, and Alexandros of Antioch's "Venus de Milo" ( 130 to 100 BCE).
Published in "Venerable Traditions: Works of Art from the Ancient World" New York: Fortuna Fine Arts, 2007. Cf. Ellen D. Reeder, "Hellenistic Art in the Walters Art Gallery" (Baltimore, 1988), cat. No. 21, pp. 96-97.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Madame Frances Artuner collection, Belgium, acquired in the 1960s; ex-Gorny & Mosch, June 22, 2007, # 158, lot 17.
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