Playing an inherent role in the society is the Artwork of Aphrodite and Venus of Willendorf. This Art History depicts the way of life of a certain generation and the basic reason for the appropriation of artefacts by scientists and historians. When properly analysed these artefacts tell the story of the way of life of people from such age and why they live this way.
Even in modern times, experiences of changes in specific trends which are rarely not recorded in a piece of artwork, like these artefacts have been discovered and analyzed overtime. Of interest to this paper will be two sculptures, showing the body of a nude woman. These sculptures are believed to be representation of the goddess of love or symbolise feminism during their era. These are the Aphrodite and the Venus of Willendorf. The paper therefore seeks to compare the two sculptures and probably analyse from existing material, physical and from scholars, what they represent and communicate about the role of feminism.
The Venus of Willendorf is considered to be the most famous and oldest ancient images of a woman. Witcombe notes that it was discovered in 1908 near a certain town in Austria called Willendorf. The Venus of Willendorf is believed to be about 25,000 years old BCE. It is curved out of Oolitic Limestone and stands 4 3/8 inches (11.1 cm) tall. It can comfortably fit on the palm of a hand. The sculpture shows the body of a woman. Unlike most other ancient nude images of a woman, the body is a bit chubby. Its breasts are conspicuous and also the pubic region which has traces of red ochre pigment. Conversely, less concentration is accorded to the limbs, feet and details of the face. It has no eyes, ears, nose, mouth or any other facial details. It only has seven circular horizontal bands wrapping around her head. From the look, the figurine depicts more of a motherly figure than of a young woman. Lack of a standing base or feet shows that it cannot, and probably was not meant to, stand upright.
The size of the sculpture means that it is easily portable and could be carried along almost on a daily basis. Witcombe makes use of this theory to explain why it was discovered in Willendorf, Austria, although the stone used to carve it is not found within the region. During its existence, people used to move from one place to another. Zygmont supports this notion by noting that the Venus of Willendorf fall within one of the two main types of upper Palaeolithic art. The first one is the carvings on the walls of the caves and the second are portable carvings believed to have been carried along as Palaeolithic creators wandered. The Venus of Willendorf falls within the second category according to Zygmont.
Venus is known to have been the goddess of love and beauty of the Romans. Given this definition of Venus and the location where the Venus of Willendorf was discovered, scholars like Zygmont believe that the naming of the sculpture did not emanate from its creator but from the discoverers. He also says that it does not have any indication that it shared a similar role as the Venus the goddess. It then shows that the naming has much to do with the interpretation of those who found her rather the creators.
Regardless, historians have tried to study the object and come up with some conclusions of what it probably stood for and also what it can tell about its creators or the period. Its formal qualities have been relied on to express what it meant. According to Zygmont, the creator of the Venus of Willendorf amplified elements that touch on the process of child rearing and reproduction. The creator took time to develop the breasts, her pubic region which has traces of red ochre pigment. Scholars have suggested that the big breasts portray ability to nurse children and the pubic area to represent the ability to reproduce. In general she stands for fertility.
Similarly, the Aphrodite can communicate something about feminism during the prehistorical period of its existence. The Aphrodite was also sculpted by an unknown artist from Greece. Its origin is believed to be from the 2nd century B.C.E. Unlike the Venus of Willendorf it is made of bronze and stands at a height of 18 5/8 inches (47.3 cm). The Aphrodite has a youthful and athletic body shape of a woman. It shows the image of a nude woman holding a ball on the left hand and looking down. The right arm is a bit raised and folded almost touching the right shoulder. The sculpture is detailed with all the body curves and parts of the face visible. The creator put considerable efforts to create it as the lips have an inlay of copper, while the eyes and ribbon around her head
The sculpture has a green colouring believed to have been caused by oxidation over the years. Originally, it is said to have been brown like the colour of bronze. Over the years, the Aphrodite has been reconstructed on some parts to appear as it does. Originally, the left arm also appeared upraised like the right arm, as if to adjust a necklace, which is also now missing. It was reconstructed starting from the shoulder downwards to hold an apple. The right foot and ankle of the Aphrodite have also been reconstructed. These changes were done early in the 19th century.
During its era, before such images of Aphrodite were sculpted, Aphrodite was drawn and sculpted with clothes on her. Ridmuseaum.org notes that this tradition was broken in the 4th century BCE when the first sculpture of a nude Aphrodite was sculpted. The trend was welcomed with numerous similar images being created. This is probably the reason hundreds of similar images of Aphrodite were discovered dating back to ancient Greece. They were erected in gardens, homes and sanctuaries. The fact that few of them were made of bronze only means it belonged to wealthy patrons of the times.
This early sample of the figure of the Goddess of Aphrodite is also associated with love. Aphrodite was also a goddess of procreation, love and beauty. She assumed a similar role as Venus, the goddess of love and beauty to the Romans. The attributes of the Aphrodite Later become to be associated with womanhood. Her body attributes are clearly seen, breast, pelvic, body parts. These attributes depict her capability of producing children- continuity of life going on (birth). This interpretation of the Aphrodite is similar to Venus of Willendorf. Similarly, being the goddess of love and procreation fits her being portrayed nude.
Undoubtedly by historians is the fact that it is believed to have existed and originated in Greece. Snyder notes that in ancient Greece, the Greek used bronze to create almost all of their tools. This was common in their culture. Casting bronze allowed them to achieve things that were not possible with stone. Visible from the Aphrodite, bronze allowed aesthetic and achieving flamboyant poses. Also
Clearly, the two sculptures, the Aphrodite and the Venus of Willendorf tell of how the two cultures in the contexts in which they existed regarded procreation and love. They also speak of how women were regarded and their function of continuity by acting as motherly figures in the society. Both sculptures are created nude with their reproductive organs and breasts well sculpted. The material used to create each also tells of the origin and the culture of the people. Venus of Willendorf is made of stone while the Aphrodite is cast with bronze as was the culture of the Greek. Also the fact that such images and sculpture of the two goddesses were erected all over further emphasizes the role of the woman figure as a symbol of love and procreator in the two cultures the sculptures existed.
Risd museum. “Aphrodite” risdmuseum.org,
https://risdmuseum.org/art_design/objects/189_aphrodite. Accessed 8 Nov 2017.
Witcombe, Christopher. “Portfolio: Venus de Willendorf” asu.edu,
https://www.asu.edu/cfa/wwwcourses/art/SOACore/Willendorf_portfolio.htm. Accessed 10 Nov 2017.
Zygmont, B. “Venus of Willendorf” khanacademy.org,
https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/prehistoric-art/paleolithic-art/a/venus-of-willendorf. Accessed 8 Nov 2017.