Aphrodite of Milos, widely known as Venus de Milo, is one of the most famous examples of ancient Greek sculpture, which is immediately recognizable by its missing arms and popularly believed to represent Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation. Subsequently, the Greek goddess was adopted by the Romans as Venus. Created between 130 and 100 BC, the marble statue is named after the Greek island of Milos where it was discovered.
It is generally believed that the statue was discovered on 8th April 1820 by a peasant named Yorgos Kentrotas, who found it in pieces on Milos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, which was a part of the Ottoman Empire in those days. Unfortunately, part of its hands and the original plinth was lost following the discovery.
In another version, the statue was discovered by Yorgos Bottonis and his son Antonio in February 1820, among the ruins of an ancient theater in the vicinity of Castro, the capital of the island. Whatever may be the fact, the truth is, the statue was found in two large pieces, which include the upper torso and the lower draped legs, along with the left hand holding an apple, shreds of the upper left arm and an inscribed plinth.
The journey of the Venus di Milo, from the remote island to the capital of France, is rather accidental. Olivier Voutier, an ensign in the French navy, whose warship had been idling in the port, was searching for Greek antiquities on the island and he was present at the spot of the discovery of the broken sculpture. As he was convinced that the sculpture was a masterpiece, he informed all about it to the Marquis de Rivière, a French ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. The Marquis got it purchased and subsequently presented the sculpture to King Louis XVIII of France. The king in his turn gifted the sculpture to the Louvre, where it is on display to this very day. However, the missing arm of the goddess is a subject of intrigue for many historians and is one of the many reasons for its popularity.
Initially, the nearly nude, slightly larger than life at 6.8ft high statue was attributed to the sculptor Praxiteles, but based on an inscription that was on its plinth, the statue is now considered to be carved by Alexandros of Antioch, a sculptor of the Hellenistic period. It is also believed that, originally the beautiful goddess was draped in jewelry, which included a bracelet, earrings and a headband. However, all her ornaments have been lost long ago, before her discovery.
Nevertheless, despite the loss of the ornaments and parts of her hands, Venus de Milo is perhaps the most famous work of ancient Greek sculpture. It was profusely praised by many artists and critics as the epitome of graceful female beauty and has greatly influenced masters of modern art.
During the Paris Commune uprising in1871, the Venus de Milo statue was secreted out of the Louvre Museum in an oak crate and hidden in the basement of the Prefecture of Police. During those days of complete unrest, when the Prefecture was burned along with many other public buildings, the statue survived undamaged miraculously. It was saved for the second time during the days of the World War II, when in anticipation of the outbreak of the war, it was packed and shifted from the Louvre in the autumn of 1939 and was sheltered in the Chateau de Valencay, located a little to the south of the main Loire valley, between Loches and Bourges.
The Venus de Milo reflects innovations that appeared during the Hellenistic period. The spiral composition, the positioning of the figure and the small-breasted, elongated body are characteristic of that period. The goddess is arrested in time, holding her legs together as the drapery slides over her hips. Her nudity contrasts with the effects of light and shade of the finely-detailed drapery. Renowned for its beauty and famous for its absent arms, the Venus de Milo is considered as one of the most significant sculptures in the history of art.