Venus Anadyomene

Venus Anadyomene

Venus Anadyomene ["Αναδυόμενη" ("Anadyómenē"), "rising up".] ("Venus Rising From the Sea") was one of the iconic representations of Aphrodite, made famous in a much-admired painting by Apelles, now lost, but described in Pliny's Natural History, with the anecdote that the great Apelles employed Campaspe, a mistress of Alexander the Great, for his model. According to Athenaeus, [Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae Book XIII [] ] the idea of Aphrodite Rising from the Sea was inspired by Phryne who during the time of the festivals of the Eleusinia and Poseidonia had no problem swimming nude in the sea.


The image represents the birth of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, as she emerges from the waters. According to Greek mythology Aphrodite was born fully adult from the sea, which perpetually renewed her virginity. A motif of the goddess wringing out her hair is often repeated. The subject was often repeated in Antiquity, a fourth-century sculptural representation from a Gallo-Roman villa in Aquitania (Louvre) testifying to the motif's continued viability in Late Antiquity.

Apelles' painting was brought to Rome, but was in badly damaged condition by the time of Pliny: listing Apelles' best paintings, he noted " [Another of] Venus emerging from the sea, dedicated by the late Augustus of blessed memory in the shrine of Caesar his [adoptive-] father, which is called "The Anadyomene", praised in Greek verses like other works, conquered by time but undimmed in fame." [Pliny, "Historia Naturalis" xxxv.91 "Venerem exeuntem e mari divus Agustus dicavit in delubro patris Caesaris, quae anadyomene vocatur, versibus Graecis tantopere dum laudatur, aevis victa, sed inlustrata."]

Renaissance and post-Renaissance

Through the desire of Renaissance artists reading Pliny to emulate Apelles, and if possible to outdo him, "Venus Anadyomene" was taken up again in the fifteenth century: besides Botticelli's famous "Birth of Venus" (Uffizi Gallery, Florence) ("shown on the left"), another early "Venus Anadyomene" is the bas-relief by Antonio Lombardo from Wilton House (Victoria and Albert Museum, London). Titian's "Venus Anadyomene" ("shown on the right"), c. 1525, formerly a long-term loan by the Duke of Sutherland, was 2003's acquisition of the year at the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.

"Venus Anadyomene" offered a natural subject for a fountain: the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC has a lifesize bronze plumbed so that water drips from Venus' hair, modelled by a close follower of Giambologna, late sixteenth century. Rococo sculptures of the subject were modestly draped across the hips, but bolder nudes appealed to male nineteenth-century patrons: Théodore Chassériau executed the subject in 1835 and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres' "Venus Anadyomene", completed after many years in 1848, is one of the painter's most celebrated works (Musée Condé, Chantilly, France). Alexandre Cabanel's "Birth of Venus" of 1863 reworks the Pompeiian fresco, then recently rediscovered.

Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889) painting 'Naissance de Venus' (The Birth of Venus) ("shown on the left"), was shown at the Paris Salon in 1863, and was bought by Napoleon III for his own personal collection. Robert Rosenblum, comment on Cabanel's painting is that "This Venus hovers somewhere between an ancient deity and a modern dream" ... "and the ambiguity of her eyes, that seem to closed but that a close look revelas that she is awake." ... "A nude who could be asleep or awake is specially formidable for a male viewer" [Stephen Kern, "Eyes of Love: The Gaze in English and French Paintings and Novels 1840-1900" p.101, 1996, Reaktion Books, Art & Art Instruction, ISBN 0948462833]

The 1879 painting of the same name by William-Adolphe Bouguereau ("shown on the right"), which reimagines Botticelli's composition, is another testament to the theme's continuing popularity among the academic painters of the late nineteenth century.

Such a highly conventionalized theme, with undertones of eroticism justified by its mythological context, was ripe for modernist deconstruction; in 1870 Arthur Rimbaud evoked the image of a portly "Clara Venus" ("famous Venus") with all-too-human blemishes ("déficits") in a sardonic poem that introduced cellulite to high literature: "La graisse sous la peau paraît en feuilles plates" ("the fat under the skin appears in slabs").

Pablo Picasso recast the image of "Venus Anadyomene" in the central figure of his seminal painting "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" (1907), a modernist deconstruction of the icon, and one of the incunabula of Cubism.



* [;jsessionid=Dc0Z2L8lYdG9yFZ1pGyr2JFXQynvGJGl6VG5mjlWq926JmLxJ839!55816734?CONTENT%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673211772&CURRENT_LLV_EVENT%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673211772&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=9852723696500767&bmUID=1138521305891&bmLocale=en "Venus Anadyomene", Roman villa of Petit-Corbin, Gironde (Musée du Louvre)]
* [ Antonio Lombardo, "Venus Anadyomene"]
* [ "Venus Anadyomene", National Gallery of Art]
* [ Arthur Rimbaud, "Vénus Anadyomène"]
* [ T.R. Quigley, "Semiotics and Western Painting", 1994] Picasso's "Demoiselles d'Avignon".

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