Esquiline Venus


title = The Esquiline Venus
artist = Anon.
year = c.50
type = White marble
height =
city = Rome
museum = Capitoline Museums
The Esquiline Venus is a smaller-than-life-size nude marble sculpture of a female in a sandal and headdress.


It was found on the Esquiline Hill in the Horti Lamiani (one of the , rich archaeological sources of classical sculpture) [In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Laocoon and Discobolus had already been found here.] in 1874, during intensive building work on the site to make Rome ready as Italy's capital, following the Risorgimento. It soon passed into the collection of the Capitoline Museums [Accession number: inv. MC1141] , where it now resides, and is usually on display at its Centrale Montemartini. [ [ Musei Capitolini: Museo Montemartini] ] From December 2006 to February 4 2007, however, she was the centrepiece of the exhibition "Cleopatra and the Caesars" at the Bucerius Kunst Forum at Hamburg, [ [ Bucerius Kunst Forum] ] following which, from March to June 2007, she was at the Louvre for the Praxiteles exhibition.

In style the Esquiline Venus is an example of the Pasitelean "eclectic" Neo-Attic school, combining elements from a variety of other schools - a Praxitelean idea of the nude female form; a face, muscular torso, and small high breasts in the the fifth-century BC severe style; and pressed-together thighs typical of Hellenistic sculptures. Its arms must have broken off when the statue fell after the imperial park in which it stood fell into neglect after antiquity. They have been frequently restored in paintings (see below), but never in reality.


The statue's subject has variously been interpreted, as the Roman goddess Venus (possibly in the form Venus Anadyomene), as a nude mortal female bather, a female version of the diadumenos (see below), or a Ptolemaic commission, or a copy of one (perhaps a copy commissioned by Claudius himself for the imperial gardens). [This identification is based on the statue's Egyptian-style robe, descending over a vase, the asp on the vase, and curly hair; if correct, these features could make it a cult statue of Isis, or an image (perhaps that set up by Julius Caesar) of Cleopatra VII as Isis or Venus-Isis (the two were frequently conflated). This view is backed by the Italian philologist Licinio Glori in 1955. Or she could be a copy of the statue of Cleopatra set up by Caesar in the temple of Venus Genetrix, a view supported by Bernard Andreae. For bibliography on this point, see here.]

In modern art

The sculpture inspired many artistic reconstructions in the decade after its discovery. Chief among these are Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's "A Sculptor's Model" (1877) and Edward Poynter's "Diadumene" (1884). These both portrayed the statue's model binding her hair with a strip of fabric (as with the statue type diadumenos) in preparation for modelling for the statue or for taking a bath respectively. Poynter believed this to be the correct reconstruction partly because the remains of the little finger of her left hand are visible on the back of her head, suggesting that her left arm was raised to hold her hair in place, whilst the right hand wound the fabric. At the Centrale Montemartini, the Esquiline Venus is now usually displayed behind a 'pool' (actually a glass floor panel) in tribute to this rendering.



*Mary Beard, 'Archaeology and Collecting in late-nineteenth century Rome', from exhibition catalogue to the Royal Academy exhibition "Ancient Art to Post-Impressionism - Masterpieces from the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen"
*Charles Waldstein, [ 'Pasiteles and Arkesilaos, the Venus Genetrix and the Venus of the Esquiline'] , "The American Journal of Archaeology and of the History of the Fine Arts", Vol. 3, No. 1/2 (Jun., 1887), pp. 1-13


*"Das Gesicht der Göttin.", 16.10.2006, "Der Spiegel." Hamburg 2006, 42, S. 181
*Berthold Seewald, So sah Kleopatra wirklich aus, Die Welt, 26 October 2006 (in German) []
*Bernard Andreae, Dorothea Gall, Günter Grimm, Heinz Heinen et al, "Kleopatra und die Caesaren", hrsg. von Ortrud Westheider, Karsten Müller (2006: Munich, Hirmer Verlag)
*Cleo Uncovered (exhibition review of "Cleopatra and the Caesars"), Current World Archaeology 20, pages 42-43

External links

* [ Buffalo - more images, including back view]
* [ The Victorian Nude]
* [ Indiana - images] (specifically [] and [] ).

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