Venus de' Medici
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Venus de' Medici or Medici Venus is a lifesize Hellenistic marble sculpture depicting Aphrodite in a Venus pudica pose. It is a first century BCE marble copy, perhaps made in Athens, of a bronze original Greek sculpture, following the type of the Aphrodite of Cnidos, which would have been made by a sculptor in the immediate Praxitelean tradition, perhaps at the end of the century. It has become one of the navigation points by which the progress of the Western classical tradition is traced, the references to it an outline of the changes of taste and the process of classical scholarship The goddess is depicted in a fugitive, momentary pose, as if surpised in the act of emerging from the sea, to which the dolphin at her feet alludes. The dolphin would not have been a necessary support for the bronze original.
It bears a Greek inscription CLEOMENES SON OF APOLLODORUS OF ATHENS on its base. The inscription is not original, but in the eighteenth century the name "Cleomenes" was forged on sculptures of modest quality to enhance their value, while the inscription on the Venus de' Medici was doubted in order to ascribe the work to one of various highly-thought-of names: besides Praxiteles the less-likely names of Phidias or Scopas. The restorations of the arms was made by Ercole Ferrata, who gave them long tapering Mannerist fingers that did not begin to be recognized as out of keeping with the sculpture until the nineteenth century.
The Venus de' Medici is the name piece under which are recognized many replicas and fragments of this particular version of Praxiteles' theme, which introduced the lifesize nude representation of Aphrodite. Though this particular variant is not identifiable in any extant literature, it must have been widely known to Greek and Roman connoisseurs. Among replicas and fragments of less importance, the closest in character and finest in quality is a marble Aphrodite at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, described below.
Such sculptures are described as "Roman copies", with the understanding that these were produced, often by Greek sculptors, anywhere under Roman hegemony "say, between the dictatorship of Sulla and the removal of the Capital to Constantinople, 81 B.C. to A.D. 330" Their quality may vary from work produced by a fine sculptor for a discerning patron, to commonplace copies mass-produced for gardens.