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The Mysterious History of the Marble ‘Venus de Milo’ Statue

Venus de Milo Statue Ancient Greek Sculpture Classical Greek Sculpture

Photo: Nan Palmero (CC BY 2.0)

As one of art history’s most significant sculptures, the Venus de Milo continues to captivate audiences today. Located in the Louvre Museum, the marble masterpiece is celebrated for its Hellenistic artistry, renowned for its beauty, and famous for its absent arms.

Like many other treasured antiquities, the story behind the statue was entirely unknown when it was unearthed in the 19th century. Today, however, archaeologists and art historians have managed to piece together a narrative that explores and explains its possible provenance—though the sculpted goddess remains shrouded in mystery.

What is the Venus de Milo?

Known also as the Aphrodite of Milos, the Venus de Milo is a marble sculpture that was likely created by Alexandros of Antioch during the late 2nd century BC. It features a nearly nude, larger-than-life (6 feet, 8 inches tall) female figure posed in a classical S-curve.

Venus de Milo Statue Ancient Greek Sculpture Classical Greek Sculpture

Photo: Diego Delso via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Her body is composed of two blocks of marble as well as “several parts [that] were sculpted separately (bust, legs, left arm and foot),” according to the Louvre. Furthermore, the sculpture was likely colorfully painted and adorned with jewelry, though no pigment or metal remain on the marble today.

Venus de Milo Statue Ancient Greek Sculpture Classical Greek Sculpture

Photo: Jastrow via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Venus de Milo Statue Ancient Greek Sculpture Classical Greek Sculpture

Photo: Jastrow via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Venus de Milo Statue Ancient Greek Sculpture Classical Greek Sculpture

Photo: Heeyon Kim via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Venus de Milo Statue Ancient Greek Sculpture Classical Greek Sculpture

Photo: Bradley Weber via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Due to her nudity and the sinuous shape of her body, the figure is widely believed to be Venus, the goddess of love. However, she may also represent Amphitrite—the goddess of the sea—who held special significance on the island where the work of art was found.

Venus (Aphrodite)

Venus de Milo Statue Ancient Greek Sculpture Classical Greek Sculpture

‘Aphrodite Anadyomene’ (before 79) Photo: Stephen Haynes via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Amphitrite

Venus de Milo Statue Ancient Greek Sculpture Classical Greek Sculpture

‘Poseidon and Amphitrite’ (50-79) Photo: Stefano Bolognini via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.

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