• Antiquities  auction at Christies

    Sale 2232

    Antiquities

    11 December 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 168

    A ROMAN MARBLE TORSO OF VENUS

    CIRCA 2ND CENTURY A.D.

    Price Realised  

    A ROMAN MARBLE TORSO OF VENUS
    CIRCA 2ND CENTURY A.D.
    The goddess depicted nude, standing with her weight on her left leg, the right leg advanced, her torso bent slightly forward, causing a crease at the navel, her left arm originally lowered with the hand positioned over the pudendum, the right arm originally bent at the elbow, with the hand at the breast, the left arm adorned with an armband, with long wavy tendrils of hair falling onto each shoulder, the remains of a support on the side of the left thigh
    33½ in. (85 cm.) high


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    One of the most famous works of art in antiquity was the cult statue of the goddess Aphrodite from her temple at Knidos, sculpted by the Greek master Praxiteles in circa 350 B.C. According to later Roman writers, the statue was originally commissioned by the citizens of Kos. Praxiteles sculpted two versions for them, one draped, the other nude. The prudish citizens of Kos rejected the nude version, which was then acquired by the citizens of Knidos. They erected the statue in an open-air temple, affording a splendid view of Praxiteles' masterpiece from all angles. It is thought that this was the first full-scale depiction of the female nude in all of Greek art. The statue's fame became so great that numerous copies and variations were made during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, from full-scale replicas in marble for temples and villas, to small bronze and terracotta statuary for household shrines, to depictions on engraved gems for personal adornment.

    Although the original does not survive, enough is known about the Knidia (as she is called today) from the literary descriptions and these later copies that the type has been confidently identified. The goddess is shown standing, dropping her garment upon a vase, perhaps in preparation for her bath. Her left hand is positioned over her pudendum, her right hand over breasts, in a gesture that has traditionally been interpreted as the goddess' modesty. This is now recognized as a Victorian conceit, since there is no mythological basis to support such a view. The pose is now thought to depict the goddess emphasizing her fertility rather than hiding it (see Ridgway, Fourth-Century Styles in Greek Sculpture, p. 263).

    The standing nude Aphrodite has been as popular in modern times as it was in antiquity. The most famous versions of the Knidia are the Capitoline Venus in Rome, found during the mid 17th century, the Venus de' Medici in Florence, documented already in 1638, and the Barberini/Jenkins Venus, known by 1738 and bought by William Weddell from Thomas Jenkins around 1765 for a then record price. All were on the list of obligatory ancient statues to be seen by European travelers on the Grand Tour in Italy. The present torso shares with the Knidia, and the later versions, the same exquisite modelling and posture. Like the Barberini/Jenkins Venus, she has been given decorative armbands and there are tendrils of hair falling onto each shoulder. For the Capitoline Venus, see no. 409 in Delivorrias, "Aphrodite," in LIMC; for the Venus de' Medici see no. 419 in Delivorrias, op. cit.; for the Barberini/Jenkins Venus, see Christie's, London, 13 June 2002, lot 112.

    Provenance

    Swiss Private Collection, prior to 1992.
    with Antiquarium, New York, 1992 (Myth and Majesty, Deities and Dignitaries of the Ancient World, no. 4).


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF MR. & MRS. CHARLES W. NEWHALL, III


    Recommended features