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Venus
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Unknown sculptor; after Praxiteles, sculptor
Roman, A.D. 175 - 200
Marble and pigment
38 1/4 x 13 x 8 in.
72.AA.93

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Venus, the goddess of love, is shown naked, undressing for her bath. She stands with her right hand modestly covering her pubic area while her left hand drops her garment on a vase. Her eyes were originally inlaid in a contrasting material, and she would have worn earrings.

This Roman statuette copies on a smaller scale one of the most famous Greek statues ever made. About 350 B.C. the Greek sculptor Praxiteles carved a cult statue of the goddess Aphrodite, the first full-scale female nude in Greek art. Praxiteles' statue became extremely popular, especially in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, capturing the attention of both writers and artists. Although the original statue does not survive, its popularity led to a huge production of copies and variations on the theme, so that today more nude Aphrodites survive than any other single ancient statue type.

The idea of the goddess caught in a private moment follows a certain voyeuristic tradition in Hellenistic art, and part of the statue's appeal was clearly erotic. The gesture of the goddess's right hand is ambiguous, drawing attention to her pubis and concealing it at the same time. Roman writers such as Pliny did not hesitate to point out the overtly sexual reaction that Praxiteles' statue produced in viewers.