Statue of Venus

Roman, after Greek original of 4th century BC
1st Century AD
Gift of Mrs. Thalia Carlos
In the fourth century BC, the islanders of Kos, as related in a delightful story by Pliny, commissioned a cult statue of Aphrodite from the sculptor of Praxiteles of Athens, who created two versions: one draped, the other nude. Shocked, they took the draped type, whereupon the citizens of Knidos, on teh mainland opposite of the island, snapped up the nude. It became an instant sensation. For the first time, the erotically nude female body had been portrayed at life-size (or larger) in the content of divine cult. During the course of the late Classical and Hellenistic periods, a number of nude and partly nude representations of Aphrodite were created, both for religious and secular purposes. Copies of these, both small and large, proliferated during Roman times, to adorn private villas, bath complexes, and the like. 

This graceful sculpture represents the goddess covering herself coyly (pudica); her right arm (now missing) would have concealed her left breast. The dolphin at her side, ridden by Eros in the form of an infant boy, or putto, alludes to her birth from the sea, while also functioning as a strut to support the statue. Her pose is the same as that in two famous copies in Rome (Capitoline) and Florence (Medici); differing only in the arrangement of the hair, these have been thought to be either variants on a common original or distinct creations.