The J. Paul Getty Museum

Medici Venus

Object Details


Medici Venus


Pietro Cipriani (Italian, about 1680 - before 1745)




Italy (Place Created)





Object Number:



155.3 cm, 93.8946 kg (61 1/8 in., 207 lb.)

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Object Description

Severe yet sensual, the Roman goddess of Love's well-modeled, undulating curls and upswept hair provide a delicate contrast to the unblemished skin which is polished to a high shine. Shown in a gesture of modesty as if suddenly surprised, she appears in a classic pose known as the "chaste Venus" or Medici Venus after a famous life-size Hellenistic marble. Her eyes are slightly textured giving them the appearance of depth.

The artist's name is inscribed in Latin on the plinth, or supporting base, of the sculpture. The Medici Venus--along with Cipriani's Dancing Faun--was created for display at Shirburn Castle in Oxfordshire, the seat or country house of the patron for these works. After casting, the artist destroyed the original plasters to prevent a second use, making the works even more extraordinary. Whereas many such sculptures were displayed unprotected outdoors in gardens, these were not. The condition of the bronze has therefore retained much of the freshness of its original appearance, without staining or pitting of the surface.

Cipriani's Medici Venus is based on a Hellenistic statue that has been on display in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence since the second half of the 1600's. Such copies of Greco-Roman statuary were popular among contemporary wealthy art collectors who wanted their own versions of ancient art seen during their travels in Europe and Greece on what was known as the "grand tour." This particular sculpture, however, takes the "souvenir" type to the extreme, as it is a large, full-scale work, difficult to transport, and of such high artistic quality.

In the marble version, the work features a support to Venus's leg in the form of a putto riding a dolphin. Cipriani eliminates this element, whose stability is not required in the bronze medium. Some scholars see his choice as possibly inspired by the notion that the ancient marbles were actually copies of lost bronze originals.

1724 - 1732

Thomas Parker, 1st earl of Macclesfield, English, 1666 - 1732 (Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire, England), commissioned for him from Cipriani in Florence in 1722 through his son George Parker, by inheritance within the Parker family at Shirburn Castle.
Source: Connor, 1998, p. 26, refers to a series of letters from 1722-24 that discuss the commission of the Medici Venus and the Dancing Faun.

1732 - 2005

Earls of Macclesfield, English, (Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire, England) [sold, Christie's, London, December 1, 2005, lot 64, to Daniel Katz.]

2005 - 2008

Daniel Katz Ltd. (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008.

Plasmato dal fuoco. La scultura in bronzo nella Firenze degli ultimi Medici (September 18, 2019 to January 12, 2020)
  • Gallerie degli Uffizi (Florence), September 18, 2019 to January 12, 2020

Wright, Edward. Some observations made in travelling through France, Italy, &c. in the years 1720, 1721, and 1722. 2 vols. (London: Printed for Tho. Ward and E. Wicksteed, 1730), vol. 2, p. 1, p. 1.

Orrery, John Boyle. Letters from Italy, in the years 1754 and 1755, by the late Right Honourable John Earl of Corke and Orrery (London: printed for B. White, Horace's Head, Fleet-Street, 1773), p. 77.

Christie's, London. The Macclesfield Sculpture: The Fruits of Lord Parker's Grand Tour, 1720-22. December 1, 2005, pp. 58-71, lot 64, ill., cover ill.

Connor, T. P. "The fruits of a Grand Tour: Edward Wright and Lord Parker in Italy, 1720-22." Apollo 148 (1998), pp. 25-26, figs. 3, 4, 6.

Roettgen, Steffi. "La cultura dell'antico nella Firenze del Settecento: una proposta di lettura." In Studi di Storia dell'Arte 20 (2009), p. 187.