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Beach Bodies, Sea Foam and Shells – Summertime Venuses


Beach Bodies, Sea Foam and Shells – Summertime Venuses

Venus, Venus, Venus. Who wouldn’t envy her? She is the embodiment of beauty, sexuality and love. She is perhaps the most often depicted woman in history of art. And she was born out of sea foam. What could be more romantic than that? (Now I know why James Bond movies like to show the Bond girls walking out of the sea…).

1. A Roman Venus

milo venus

Alexandros of Antioch, Venus de Milo, between 130 and 100 BC, Louvre Museum, Paris, France

She is a must for everybody who comes to the Louvre. People run through the gallery rooms to find her and take a selfie. She is always surrounded by swarms of paparazzis and admirers. No wonder why. Just look at her perfect beach body- the missing arms are not a problem at all. She was found on a Greek island of Milos, probably chilling on the beach.

2. A Paleolithic Venus

prehistoric venus

The Venus of Willendorf, 28,000-25,000 BCE, found in 1908, Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna

This Venus definitely has everything that the goddess of fertility needs: big breasts, rounded hips, an exposed vulva. She is a perfect woman, at least for Paleolithic communities. Such figurines of women were very common and most probably served a ritual or symbolic function. Others see them as sex aids. A historic aphrodisiac anyone?

3. A Baby Venus

botticelli venus

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, c. 1486, Uffizi, Florence

Look at her, she is just about to step down on the shore from her shell. This Venus is just newly born but for a baby Venus she looks very grown up to me. Moreover, the shell is a symbol of her vulva, which she modestly covers with her beautiful blond hair. She is just perfect, although a little bit modified: Botticelli extended her neck to make it look more graceful. This is called a plastic surgery in a Renaissance style.

4. A Real Venus

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Venus Verticordia, 1864-1868, Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Venus Verticordia, 1864-1868, Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

This Venus has a face of a real woman. Rossetti had a favourite model, Alexa Wilding, who featured in his paintings from the period of 1860s and 1870s. Interestingly, however, he didn’t have any romantic relationship with her, on the contrary to his other muses.
At first she did not model for this painting, but Rossetti repainted it with her face when the painting failed to sell.

5. A Modest Venus

venus pudica

The Capitoline Venus, 3rd- or 2nd-century BCE, Capitoline Museums, Rome

This Venus is one of many as she represents the whole style of the so-called “Venus Pudica” which means a “modest Venus”. Her hair is tied and the vase with towel next to her suggest that she has just finished bathing. You can recognize any statue from this series by the positioning of the arms. She tries to cover her breasts and groin, but she does it in a way that we can see them anyway. Oh, those flirty Venuses.

Magda, an art historian-to-be, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.


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