The Birth of Venus (Botticelli) WikiPedia
An Analysis on The Origins of Praxiteles’ Creation of the Aphrodite of Knidos
The goddess Aphrodite’s depiction throughout art exudes a sensual charm and beautiful quality from her pose to her style and attributes, and the meaning behind her alluring qualities. According to Pliny, Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Knidos, created in 350 BC, was considered the best statue in the world.
A statement such as the one Pliny made must have strong and intentional backing other than the beautiful goddess’ nude body. Although this was the first female nude monumental statue ever created in Greek art, the question that must be approached is why Praxiteles decided to create art that had never been done before by any other artist, and what was the inspiration for this revelation. One can look to many factors and characteristics of the goddess of love and beauty to examine the such choice Praxiteles made.
The unusual birth of the goddess brings forth not only her natural lineage to the Earth but also to the Sea, and in tern gives reason why her cult ultimately identifies themselves with not only eroticism due to her sensual charms and ultimate power of procreation and sex, but also their dedication to the water and the bathing of the goddess as ritual.
This natural side of Aphrodite seem to fit to the natural nudity and water jug depicted in the statue. Also the more complex abilities and powers the goddess has, such as the power to harmonize a society, not just in the personal sphere but also the public and civic sphere, shows her dominance and exceptional power that would permeate through her self-conscious nude stance and aligns herself now with the dominant heroic nude males in statue, illustrating that women in statue could now be idealized in more than just the way of victims or property. Praxiteles’ statue is famous not just because he depicted a woman nude, but because he illustrated a woman’s power can be equal or dominant over a male’s and that women can be a positive ideal form in the art world.
Nikolaus Himmelmann, author of Reading Greek Art , explains the importance of Praxiteles’ work: “…Praxiteles was the first to depict Aphrodite completely nude. This assessment was based on the Knidian statue of the artist, although the ancient sources actually do not explicitly link the revolutionary development to the statue. The judgement might plausibly be derived from the passage in Pliny, according to which the Koans, for whom the statue was originally intended, preferred a clothed statue to the nude one.”. Himmelmann stating the Aphrodite of Knidos was the first time Aphrodite was shown naked is directed towards just monumental statue, for the goddess has been shown in many vase and fresco work, even miniature votive terracotta reliefs and statues.
Before the famous Praxiteles’ monumental nude statue of Aphrodite, nude women in Greek art were dismal figures in the art world. Depicted on vases and frescos, women in the nude, or in this case naked, were either rape victims or courtesans, not meant to be shown nude with a choice. Himmelmann in his commentary discusses how in the Rape of Helen, Attic red figure lekythos from St.
Petersburg, Hermitage, the goddesses were depicted nude, but did not fall into the category of victim or scandalous: “The old theme of the rape of Helen by Paris is free of all tragic elements in this scene which were fundamental in representations till the end of the fifth century, and has become the unambiguous triumph of the daughter of Zeus, whose path is guided by Hermes. Because of the presence of Hermes,the women with thymiaterion and phiale can only be Aphrodite and not an unknown servant. The stepped base clearly indicates that the nudity here is to be understood as purely ideal.”.
The goddesses in Greek mythology do not have a similar role dealing with their nudity in art, and Aphrodite is no exception. As Himmelmann states, Aphrodite being nude on the vase was ideal for the situation, which can play into the goddesses’ natural sensual being. Mark P. Morford, the writer of Classical Mythology, explains the progression of Aphrodite in art: “The gamut of the conceptions of the goddess of love is reflected in sculpture as well as literature. Archaic idols, like those of other fertility goddesses, are grotesque in their exaggerations of her sexual attributes.
In early Greek art she is rendered as a beautiful woman, usually clothed. By the fourth century she is portrayed nude (or nearly so), the idealization of womanhood in all her femininity; the sculpture Praxiteles was mainly responsible for establishing the type-sensuous in its soft curves and voluptuousness.” (Morford 180). As told by Morford, the exaggeration of body parts, breasts mostly, became Aphrodite’s spotting mark in art, but as the centuries went on, her appearance became more tame yet extravagant and sensual, playing into her characteristics as the goddess of love and beauty.
A reasoning for Praxiteles deciding to create not just a dressed statue of Aphrodite but a nude one can be seen in the statues done just about a century before Aphrodite of Knidos was made for the city of Kos. The best example is seen in the East Pediment of the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis. Commentators have examined the style, pose, and physical attributes emphasized on the three goddesses grouped together, including Aphrodite, and have noticed not only the drapery on these deities and their significance, but also how their presentation plays into their identities.
Marina Belozerskaya, the author of Ancient Greece: Art, Architecture, and History, explicates not only the position of each goddess to one another in the pediment, but also how this position relates to the goddesses’ character: “Hestia, Dione, and Aphrodite wear draperies with bold, whirling, heavily shadowed folds. Hestia, the matronly guardian of hearth and home, may be seated on a household altar.
The motherly Dione supports her voluptuous daughter Aphrodite, who reclines in her lap. The individual character of each goddess dictates her posture, dress, and physique.” Using the word “voluptuous” becomes apart of her identity as the goddess of not just love, but procreation. Sensuality defines this goddess from her other predecessors, and it’s not just in her developed person, but also in her drapery, as John Griffiths Pedley discusses in Greek Art and Archaeology: “The sculpture here is a revelation: the goddesses wear thin crinkly chitons pressed tight against upper bodies to reveal the contours of the breasts beneath.
The long flowing lines of the folds of the mantles over the legs produce a continuous rhythmic effect and are so deeply carved that they create a profoundly dramatic sense of light and shade. Here, too, drapery pressed up against the body barely conceals knees, thighs, and lower legs.”. This wet drapery illustrates the step closer to the nudity of the goddess of Aphrodite, without becoming nude.
The flow of the drapery on the goddesses, the way it hangs on the breasts and clings on the hips, legs, and thighs, gives such an emphasis on the body without being as revealing as being nude. As this clingy drapery permeates a more sensual feel to the women who dawn it in sculpture, Aphrodite’s drapery on her reclining body in this pediment goes deeper into her character and a reason why Praxiteles chose to create the famous nude.
Christine Mitchell Havelock, the creator of The Aphrodite of Knidos and Her Successors: A Historical Review of the Female Nude in Greek Art, discusses this more intricate explanation of Aphrodite’s wet drapery by saying, “The extraordinary interdependence of body and drapery in Greek art is evident in the east pediment of the Parthenon. Toward the right corner, the opulent figure of Aphrodite languishes in the lap of another woman, usually identified as her mother. Aphrodite’s nonchalance expresses her lack of self-consciousness and her utter indifference to any male observer.
Her pubic zone is indeed covered, but its precise location and vitality are indicated by the covering and undulating drapery folds. One breast is hardly cloaked, and the chiton slips off her shoulder. Can we assume that the sculptor was intent on obscuring the female body – or even placing any part of it off limits? In contrast, it is worth recalling how the human form is overpowered, hidden and obscured under excessive lines or bulky drapery in medieval sculpture as in much baroque sculpture as well.”
This idea of the power of the human body and Aphrodite’s carelessness to her audience, with the combination of the clingy drapery and her curves heightened, illustrates the power of nudity, a power said to have only been with the heroic male nudes in Greek statues. Aphrodite having this power with her body with this material concludes that her nudity would withhold the power of the heroic nude by males to an equal level, maybe even a higher lever, not just because of her body, but also her character and her attributes. This is an origin why Praxiteles created the nude Aphrodite alongside the draped goddess; Aphrodite is not just the goddess of love and beauty, but her power and her purpose to ancient Greek society is discovered to be abundant and fruitful to her being the first female nude in monumental statue.
The goddess Aphrodite is seen as one of the most alluring goddesses of the 12 Olympic gods. The majority of people who have heard of the goddess only associate just a few attributes with her, one being that she is commonly known as the goddess of love and beauty. Mark P. Morford, the author of Classical Mythology, writes a passage that simply summarizes the goddesses’ role in Greek mythology:
“In general Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty, love, and marriage. Her worship was universal in the ancient world, but its facets were varied. The seductive allurement of this goddess was very great; she herself possessed a magic girdle with irresistible powers of enticement.”
Excluding the explanation of the magic girdle that aided in her seductive powers, this passage by Morford epitomizes the qualities that are most known in relation to Aphrodite. These surface and superficial details, however, would not suffice to be the reason that this goddess would be portrayed as the first monumental female nude in marble statue in the history of Greek art. To begin examining the theory of the reasoning and origins for Praxiteles’ choice to present Aphrodite as nude in statue, you can look at the birth of Aphrodite herself.
The most famous representation of this comes from a Renaissance artist, Sandro Botticelli, who created The Birth of Venus in the 15th century, which illustrates the naked Aphrodite (or the Roman goddess Venus) riding the waves on a large shell surrounded by nymphs and other mythical creatures. Although this depiction obviously draws from the pose and stance of Praxiteles’ work Aphrodite of Knidos, and gives a paralleling contrapposto stance, the representation of the birth illustrates the soft pastels and the romanticism in the composition that doesn’t match entirely with the actual birth of the goddess of love.
Nigel Jonathan Spivey, writer of the commentary Understanding Greek Sculpture: Ancient Meaning, Modern Readings, gives an accurate account of the mythological birth of Aphrodite, which also shows the difference between Botticelli’s work: “Gaia, Mother Earth, was coupled with Uranus, who was Heaven in name but a brute by nature. Gaia bore the many unruly sons of Uranus, but eventually tired of his deceits and visitations. She made a flint sickle and enlisted the help of her youngest so, Cronos, in punishing Uranus. The punishment was drastic. Cronos lopped off his father’s genitals, which tumbled into the sea. A divine foam arose where they fell and out of that foam (aphros) came Aphrodite”.
Aphrodite’s birth speaks to her natural characteristics of the Earth and the Sea, which gives light to the natural nudity in Praxiteles’ art, and gives a closer insight into why Praxiteles chose to create this goddess nude when it was uncommon for the art world at the time. An important characteristic of Aphrodite’s birth is her origin of parents themselves. Her mother is Gaia, Mother Earth and her father is Uranus, who technically is Heaven. Aphrodite of Knidos is depicted nude in the statue by Praxiteles, which nudity permeates the natural, one of the most natural acts a human beings can be in life is nude.
Aphrodite’s origin of Earth can be seen in other deeper attributes of her mythology, such as being Aphrodite en Kepois (in the Gardens) in many cults to the goddess. Not only is there natural lineage in Earth, but also in the Sea. Although Aphrodite does not possess the romanticized and graceful birth Renaissance artist Botticelli illustrates in his late 15th century masterpiece, Aphrodite still is born from the foam of the sea, directly from the natural oceans of the Earth.
Praxiteles’ creation of the nude Aphrodite originally for the city of Kos needed reasoning behind why he created a female statue nude alongside a female statue with drapery, especially when it has never been done before. The first of the many reasons Praxiteles, in theory, created Aphrodite as nude was because of the connection between the naturalistic side of nudity, baring what was given to you in birth, and the naturalistic lineage of Mother Earth and the Sea foam to Aphrodite; the goddess of love and marriage aligns beautifully with nature and is shown in her natural state as nude.
As the female goddess Aphrodite shows herself nude in the famous Late Classical statue, nudity among males in statue was seen as power and beauty. What other female deity as Aphrodite to not only illustrate her power in the mythological world of Greek religion through her nudity, but also to explicate Aphrodite as more than just a beautiful goddess.
Aphrodite in all was more than just the goddess of love and beauty. Although she played a large role in creating harmony in these two areas for mortals on Earth, she exudes power in harmony in other areas as well. Further examining this point is author Rachel Rosenzweig, the author of Worshipping Aphrodite. Rosenzweig discusses in her work about the mythological goddess that has more to her than what commonly is applied to her character as a Greek god: “Aphrodite’s role in the cults of Athens reveals a goddess of great prominence and power – a goddess involved in more than simply sex and love.
Among Aphrodite’s cultic concerns were the fertility of people and vegetation, the harmonious coexistence of people in their private relationships, and public and civic harmony. These elements are fundamental to the well-being of a society.” Rosenzweig speaks to Aphrodite’s important role in the sexual and loving lives of the mortals on earth, through her activity in the private lives of relationships, which alludes to the sexual nature involved, and the “fertility of people and vegetation”, which not only connect to the sexual nature of her powers and abilities as the goddess of love and sex, but also connect to the natural side of her connection with Mother Earth and the desire for an abundance of natural life to grow in the mortal realm of the world.
Rosenzweig continually speaks of this nature of Aphrodite saying, “As Aphrodite en Kepois (in the Gardens), her powers of fertility extended to all forms of life, including people, animals, and vegetation.”. Aphrodite’s natural side in terms of fertility and the growth of the population of humans and animals was a great one, and one of her important powers possessed by the goddess, as Rosenzweig says, “Aphrodite is the embodiment of the most powerful instinctive behavior: procreation.
In this way, Aphrodite is a threat to the deities who are subject to her formidable power, and her repeated and successful efforts to lead the heart of Zeus astray with mortal women inspire his revenge.”. This passage indicates that Aphrodite has powers that can even defeat the other gods of Olympia, including the most powerful of them all, Zeus. This connection to the land and the need for the multiplying of life on earth plays with her origins to Mother Earth, and both connect with her nude appearance in Praxiteles’ statue of the goddess. Not only does the nature reflect the nudity, but also the other power that is related the Aphrodite, and the other important roles she plays in keeping society together.
Her strength in control over other powerful deities can be said to be equivalent to the status and power that male nude statues represented in Greek art. This illustrates an origin Praxiteles could have seen as equaling to the power and status seen in these heroic nudes, and prompted the artist to create the first monumental female nude. The great connection to people and nature on Earth Aphrodite possesses plays a key role into the creation of Aphrodite of Knidos.
Many see the Aphrodite of Knidos as just a sensual erotic portraiture of the goddess of love and sex, due to her nudity, exposing her breasts and partial pubic area. Because of her not being a simple sex goddess, and her power that has overwhelming complexities and qualities, her nudity needs to be seen as more than just a new form of erotica in Greek art. Looking at her ‘erotic’ nature can be justified as partially the art format of the time and Praxiteles’ own hand.
Havelock comments the statues body and how it speaks more to a harmonic tone than an erotic one: “She has no need of public hair, since her mature sexuality is visible through her whole body – in the roundness of her hips, in the developed breasts, and because girlish bones and muscles have been overlaid with a rich but firm surface of flesh. In sum, the sexuality of the figure is expressed and yet curbed but the rational perfection of the pose. The gesture of the goddess’ right hand and arm complicates her meaning and clearly distinguishes her from any ideal male figure. The arm itself is bent with a minimum of effort; indeed it almost seems to fall, in keeping with the classical contrapposto scheme.”
According to Havelock, this harmony of the body stance brings in a more mathematical and logical feel of nudity than just eroticism and sex. Connecting this harmony of her stance and presentation can be Aphrodite’s power of harmonizing a co- existence of people not just in the personal sphere but also the public and civic one. Relating to this harmony that clearly alludes to Aphrodite’s powers and attributes of her being a deity, it brings to light other reasons what her nudity could represent in the art world.
Just as Rosenzweig presents the many facades of Aphrodite’s great power, Praxiteles could have presented Aphrodite as a nude to stand next to the heroic nude male statues that have reigned all through Greek art up to this point in the 4th century. Havelock comments on Aphrodite’s nudity in relation to power for females in art: “…the Greeks, to whom sexuality was not so prescriptive, seem to have regarded nudity in a broader context as a display of power and liberty.
There was not an inherent contradiction between divinity and the exposure of the body. If a water vessel and a garment are placed near the Knidia, this need not be a pretext for depicting her nude. Her nakedness, on the contrary, refers to her divine birth in the sea and, by implication, to her seafaring responsibilities as Aphrodite Euploia at Knidos. The full revelation of her beauty is a recognition that the sight of her could epitomize the nature of desire and therefore could render her power explicit.
The drapery need not be a necessity required to furnish a way out if an intruder interfered, but may rather be a formal device to unite the goddess with the nearby vase, which is so important to the meaning of the whole. As an attribute, the hydria, a water vessel, implies the wide range of her powers, her fertility, her unending freshness and youth.”. Havelock mentions not only the importance of nature and her sea foam birth, but also her powers in rejuvenation and procreation, which touch the mortal realm in such a way that worshiping this goddess brings joy and harmony to everyone’s lives. This fact could have charged Praxiteles to create a nude statue of Aphrodite, not just to reference the cult ritual of bathing, but also to illustrate her power and ability is both great, and her being, sexual and persuasive powers brings a sensual charm that highlights the nudity in a well receptive light.
Power reigned not only in civic orders, but also in the power of sexuality and, in the end, the body for the goddess Aphrodite in Greek mythology. This sexual power in charms and the body equal to origins in Praxiteles’ choice to create an option of the Aphrodite statue for the city of Kos to be a female nude. Spivey, the writer of Understanding Greek Sculpture: Ancient Meaning, Modern Readings, describes the more intricate details of Aphrodite’s sensual powers over the mortals and even many of the gods and goddesses of Olympia:
“All Greek deities carried a bundle of sobriquets with them, but Aphrodite carried more than most: She was Ambologera: Postponer of Old Age. She was Epistrophia: the Heart-twister. She was Psithyros: the Whispering One. She was Parakyptousa: the Side-glancer. She was Peitho: Persuasion. Above all she was Charidotes: the Joy-giver. Some of her early temple images presented her as armed, reminding us of Aphrodite’s dalliance with Ares; but in general her cult was a shameless solution of life below the nave. And it was from below the navel, but in a bizarre manner, that she was born.”
These attributes Spivey presents in this passage demonstrates more power than most would every comprehend the goddess known for love and sex could possess. As male heroic nudes in statues depicted the epitome of beauty, Aphrodite had the power to sustain that beauty for all eternity. Aphrodite’s sensual powers, such as persuasion and being the joy-giver, shows her even more versatile status as an Olympic goddess.
Her powers in the political and civic world to create harmony and her powers of eternal beauty and persuasion in the private quarters of couples and relationships ranging from marriages to prostitutes and their clientele, which charges the idea that her powerful position as a deity intertwined with the sensual charms that her character exudes within herself and her powers illustrates reasonable origins for Praxiteles to create Aphrodite nude in monumental statue.
Because of these sensual, even erotic, powers existing with the Greek goddess Aphrodite, it is no surprise, as said by Spivey also, that the cult that was created around the goddess Aphrodite would have the sense of eroticism as well:“It hardly comes as a surprise to learn that the cult of Aphrodite thrived at sites visited by sailors, nor that the temples of the goddess were designated to accommodate the sex-hungry…the most celebrated Greek statue of Aphrodite was in a temple whose temenos was used by Aphrodite’s followers (Aphrodisiazontes) to practical effect, and it is tempting to connect the overly erotic nature of her cult.”
The way that Aphrodite was conceived in the sea and her sexual powers and charms that characterize her as the goddess of love and beauty play to the sexual nature of the nude statue by Praxiteles itself; Aphrodite herself is an erotic subject, her being, her powers, her followers, her cult and temple, all exemplify the erotic in nature, and the Aphrodite of Knidos shows to be an erotic statue. As Rachel Meredith Kousser comments in Hellenistic and Roman Ideal Sculpture, “Aphrodite’s sensuous power – erotic, seductive, irresistible – was rendered more overtly and effectively than it before in monumental sculpture and vase painting.” Both the erotic nature and the earthy nature of Aphrodite combine to form solid contributions to Praxiteles creating a nude statue of this complex goddess.
As discussed, Aphrodite has dominion over the powers of love and sex and marriage, and the harmony that wraps them all in the well-being of a good society. These characteristics are rooted in Gaia, Mother Earth, and Aphrodite’s mother. The female nude Aphrodite of Knidos by Praxiteles gives the essence of the importance of nature due to the nudity portrayed by the goddess, and what better goddess to connect nature with than Aphrodite, whose pure being permeates with nature. Anne Baring, the author of The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of An Image, discusses the essence of this goddess, which gives insight into how the harmony she gives to society coexists greatly with her nature: “She is there whenever life sparkles with beauty and joy. The Graces who attend her, weaving her robes, plating her crown of violets, are called Joyous (Euphrosyne), Brilliance (Aeglea) and Flowering (Thalia) – all that makes for sweetness in life. When she steps out of the waves on to the shore, grass and flowers spring up beneath her feet. Desire (Himeros) and Love (Eros) follow her wherever she goes. As she walks up her mountain, the animals are filled with longing for each other.”
The goddess of love and beauty brings all the intricate attributes into those two characteristics to the world; with harmonious love comes joy and with beauty comes brilliance and flowering, which alludes back to the fertility and vegetation Rosenzweig emphasizes in her commentary. This is also seen in the ‘grass and flowers spring up beneath her feet’, as if she has been given her mother’s powers to create nature for this mortal Earth. Also, there are two connections made to the sensual nature that is Aphrodite; her procreation of animals and different creatures, which speaks to the abundance referenced by Rosenzweig also, and the emergence from her watery birth. This part of the passage is necessary to include due to not only her birth, but also to her erotic cult, and the importance water and bathing was to the cult. Praxiteles’ knowledge of the cult of Aphrodite possibly could have led to his strengthening in creating the famous female nude of this complicated goddess.
In Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Knidos and the hundreds of Roman copies thereafter, Aphrodite is shown either stepping into or stepping out of a bath, which illustrates a practical reason why, in the art work, she is nude. The connection between the bathing scene in Praxiteles’ work and the importance of bathing to Aphrodite and her cult cannot be underscored. Christine Mitchell Havelock, writer of The Aphrodite of Knidos and Her Successors: A Historical Review of the Female Nude in Greek Art, explains Aphrodite’s obsession with water and bathing that was both unintentional yet inevitable: “No Greek divinity enjoyed bathing more than Aphrodite. She had initially emerged from water: Hesiod informs us that she was born in the sea from foam that collected around the severed sexual organs of Uranus, the god of the heavens.
She approached the island of Cythera and then had a very long swim until she came ashore to her own sacred home on Cyprus. Thus, because of her marine origin, the ritual bathing of Aphrodite was particularly important in her cult.” Since her extraordinary birth, Aphrodite has been related to the sea and water, and that connection not only played in her beginnings in Greek mythology, but also played as a sacred ritual among her cult on Cyprus. As Baring shows, because of the goddess’ strange birth from the foam of the sea, bathing has a connection to the mortals with the birth, or rebirth, of their own souls and selves: “A union is reunion, so fertility is rebirth. This understanding was rendered in the annual ritual bathing of Aphrodite in the spring, which renewed her virginity and the virginity of the earth.”
This ritual done by her erotic cult illustrates that Aphrodite not only gives new life in procreation and fertility, but also new life to the mortals that worship her, in terms of their virginity and their inner being. Bathing is a type of renewal as well, washing all the dirt, and in a deeper sense wrong doings and sins, away from your body and for your life. With the bathing of Aphrodite, these were washed away and new life was given. Praxiteles would take this cult ritual and, underneath the practical showing of a goddess about to bath, would see it as a reason why he would make this complex goddess of love, beauty, and marriage into the first monumental female nude statue; illustrating the renewal of life Aphrodite gives to her worshippers, and the beginning of life to the mortal world below her on Mount Olympus.
Looking at the strong connection of Aphrodite and her connection to nature, both through her famous birth in the foam of the sea and through her power of fertilization and procreation, one can conclude that the nudity presented in Aphrodite of Knidos relates to the natural state of nudity itself and the natural state Aphrodite thrives in. In Praxiteles’ work, Aphrodite stands in contrapposto stance nude, with her left hand on drapery that slightly covers a water jug that rests on a stand next to the goddess. Whether Aphrodite is stepping out of the bath or she is about to bathe, this physical connection between her and the water relates to the mythological connection of bathing, the sea, and her cult.
Bathing and nudity both are natural for any human being, and Aphrodite is shown by Praxiteles to be open in her carefree stance. Christine Mitchell Havelock, writer of The Aphrodite of Knidos and Her Successors: A Historical Review of the Female Nude in Greek Art, examines the ideas of a 19th century thinker Bernoulli on the statue and its implications on the water jug and the practice of bathing itself, and how it strongly connects with the goddess Aphrodite herself. These ideas link to Anne Baring’s commentary on the goddess and her bathing ritual: “That the Knidian Aphrodite was thought by Bernoulli to be engaged in a bath served well as a practical pretext for her nudity. Washing the hands or immersion of the whole body has widespread religious significance in classical antiquity. All water – from a spring, a river, or the sea – was regarded as clean, fresh, and rejuvenating.”
The notion of the bathing process being a ritual that connects to a rebirth or a cleaning of the being of the soul is a common belief in the cult of Aphrodite. Aphrodite of Knidos presents not only the practical bathing time of a woman, but also the connection to the cult of Aphrodite, and her promise to her followers that the emersion in water will create a wave of new life not only in her but the mortals on earth.
As it is said, Aphrodite is the goddess of love, beauty, and marriage, and brings harmony to all relationships, from marriages to prostitutes and their cliental. This ritual bathing and submersion into water helps all mortals, no matter their situation in life, as Havelock explains in his commentary: “He (Bernoulli) may have been associating the action he thought he saw in the statue with contemporary notions that washing the body assisted in conferring moral purity on the soul – especially on the souls of those most in need: the poor of society, including prostitutes.
Virginity, a major concern of the nineteenth-century male, might be metaphorically restored with a good scrub.”This illustrates the harmony Aphrodite brings to all the mortals of the earth, and gives equal opportunity to have all cleaned and renewed with life. This links to Aphrodite’s natural being and connection with the people of ancient Greece. Pedley examines the nature of how the statue was presented in the cult temple: “The marble original was made around 350 BC and stood in an open shrine visible from every side. Thus, the divine had become accessible, almost personal, captured in an intimate moment.”Aphrodite was shown open to all, not hidden or only kept for certain eyes. She was a goddess of harmony, and to be a goddess of such a capacity, her nude self in her inviting stance and side glance, and her placement with her ritual mark to her side invited followers to worship her and to have hope of a new clean slate in life.
The presentation of the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, before Praxiteles’ demonstration and the connection to nature, whether in creating new life or renewing life, cumulate together to give origin to Praxiteles’ creating the nude statue of the goddess. Pedley gives a summary of the famous statue and its stance in his commentary Greek Art and Archaeology: “Aphrodite stands naked, caught in a fleeting pose, her left hand resting on the drapery thrown over the adjacent water jar…she has long legs and a small head. Her right hip pushes out, and the S-curve rises slowly through her body. She has soft, wavy hair, and her face has a triangular forehead, shadowy eyes, a straight nose, and a small mouth.”
Pedley speaks to both the natural quality of the goddess in the statue with the connection to the cult ritual of water and her nudity side by side. Although this passage illustrates Praxiteles’ identifying S-curve and characteristically feminine features of the goddess yet boyish quality of depicting the human form, whether male or female, the physical connection of her left hand on the drapery and water jug stated brings to light the reasons of Aphrodite’s nudity in Praxiteles’ work; Her birth from the sea foam gives her connection to nature through her lineage, and her power illustrated through her cult and from her vitality in attributes and power herself, which gives her the heroic nude quality the male nudes received. Both nature and power that runs through the goddess’ being come together to illustrate why Praxiteles created a nude Aphrodite, which became the famous Aphrodite of Knidos. This statue created women statues as ideal as men were nude, and began to strip away the stigma of women only nude in helpless situations, but now in positions of power and prestige.
Baring, Anne. The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of An Image. London: New York; Viking Arkana, 1991.
Belozerskaya, Marina. Ancient Greece: Art, Architecture, and History . Los Angeles : J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004.
Havelock, Christine Mitchell. The Aphrodite of Knidos and Her Successors: A Historical Review of the Female Nude in Greek Art. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1995.
Himmelmann, Nikolaus. Reading Greek Art . Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1998.
Kousser, Rachel Meredith. Hellenistic and Roman Ideal Sculpture. Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Morford, Mark P. Classical Mythology. New York : Longman, 1991.
Pedley, John Griffiths. Greek Art and Archaeology. New York : H.N. Abrams, 1993.
Rosenzweig, Rachel. Worshipping Aphrodite. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2004.
Spivey, Nigel Jonathan, Understanding Greek Sculpture: Ancient Meaning, Modern Readings. New York : Thames and Hudson, 1996.
Written by Londyn Lamar
HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android
Planet Knowledge is a FREE to watch video on demand channel available on Freeview HD (Channel 265), Youview, Samsung connected TV’s, selected smart tv’s, tablets and smartphones using Android or iOS.