La Vénus d'Ille  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

La Vénus d'Ille is a short story by Prosper Mérimée. It was written in 1835 and published in 1837. It tells the story of a statue of Venus that comes to life and kills the son of its owner, whom it believes to be its husband.

Plot summary

The narrator, an archeologist, is visiting the town of Ille in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. A friend of his recommended him to M. de Peyrehorade, who is familiar with the Roman ruins in the area. When he arrives, he discovers that M. de Peyrehorade's son, Alphonse, is to be married to a certain Mademoiselle de Puygarrig, and the narrator is invited to the wedding.

Meanwhile, M. de Peyrehorade shows the narrator his new discovery: a bronze statue of Venus Pudica. The narrator judges the statue to be very old and deciphers the inscription. Both men marvel at her fierce gaze; she is as frightening as she is beautiful. She also seems to be cursed: the man who found her had his leg broken, and another man who threw a stone at her was injured by the stone rebounding and striking him.

Before the wedding, the groom decides to play a game of Paume, and he slips the wedding ring intended for his fiancée onto a finger of the statue. He wins the game, but his opponents swear revenge. He accidentally leaves the ring with the statue; and when he goes back later to retrieve it, he discovers that the statue has closed her fingers around it. The narrator does not believe Alphonse's story, since Alphonse has been drinking heavily at the reception, and he goes to bed.

During the night, the narrator hears heavy footsteps climbing the stairs; but he assumes that it is a drunken Alphonse going to bed. In the morning, after the cock's crow, he hears the same steps retreating down the stairs. Suddenly, there is screaming and commotion. The narrator runs down the hall to find a crowd of people surrounding the dead Alphonse, who looks as though he died in a fiery embrace.

At first, he suspects that it was the rival faction from the game of Paume; but later he hears the story of Alphonse's wife, who others claim has gone crazy. She says that the statue entered the room, embraced her husband, and spent the entire night with him in her arms. In the morning, the statue left him there and returned to her pedestal.

The narrator leaves town to return to Paris. He later hears that M. de Peyrehorade has died, and his wife had the statue melted down and turned into a bell for the local church. The narrator remarks that since the bell has been installed, the crops have been destroyed twice by frost.


  • The narrator, an archeologist from Paris on vacation in Ille
  • M. de Peyrehorade, the owner of the statue
  • Mme de Peyrehorade, M. de Peyrehorade's wife
  • Alphonse, M. de Peyrehorade's son
  • Mlle de Puygarrig, Alphonse's fiancée and later wife
  • Vénus, the statue
  • le Catalan

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "La Vénus d'Ille" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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