Friday, June 01, 2007

The Crouching Aphrodite

The Crouching Aphrodite, or the Venus of Vienne, Diodalsas of Bithinia, 3rd C BCE

Here is another relative of the Knidia in a pose that became extremely popular in Hellenistic, Roman, and Renaissance art, and beyond. She is presumably bathing, perhaps under a shower of water. For me, it is one of the glories of art in any age - if we could just remove that pesky strut underneath the right leg, which would not have been present in the bronze original.

The folds at her waist are modeled with wonderful precision and contrast well with her thighs, so full of energy and elegant angles. She is poised, balancing herself as she washes, turning, perhaps for more water, perhaps in recognition of the presence of some attendant, or even the gaze of some onlooker - us - me. I don't miss the head or face, I think because the concentration is so evident in the engaging expression of every line and fold of her sensual body.

Richard Brilliant describes:

...a life-size substantial nude, self-enclosed within its pyramidal shape, yet strongly composed from many points of view; the artist has contained the contrasting movements of limbs and head within a stable but energetic figure realized with harmonious grace as a living female, fully developed and luxuriantly clad in a rich mantle of soft flesh (Arts of the Ancient Greeks, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1973, 363).

He draws a contrast between this fine piece and the "decorative aesthetic" of a statuette from about a century later from Rhodes:

carved... in translucent marble, simplified in form and virginally slender, now seen delicately extended along a single plane in a tableau of sweet loveliness The different between these versions also lies, significantly, in the distinct reactions elicited: Wow! And How nice (Brilliant, 365).