Unknown artist, Greek
Aphrodite, 2nd century BCE
Height: 47.3 cm (18 5/8 inches)
Museum Appropriation Fund and Special Gift Fund 26.117
This bronze figure of Aphrodite, now green from oxidation, once would have been a warm brown. To heighten a sense of naturalism, the eyes and hair ribbon were inlaid with silver and the lips with copper. The left arm, reconstructed from the shoulders down, now shows her holding an apple; it was originally upraised like her right, to adjust a necklace, now missing. The right foot and ankle have also been replaced. These restorations date to the early 19th century.
In the 4th century BCE, the first nude image of Aphrodite was sculpted, breaking a long tradition of depicting Greek goddesses clothed. It was fitting, however, that the goddess of love and beauty was the first to be portrayed in this new way. The motif became so popular that hundreds of such images of Aphrodite survive from ancient Greece and Rome, where they adorned homes, gardens, and sanctuaries. Exceedingly rare today, bronze examples like this one must have been prized possessions of wealthy patrons.
The posture of this statue of the goddess Aphrodite, with its curving torso and raised arm, identifies it as a possible copy of a fourth-century BCE work by the famous Athenian sculptor Praxiteles. The left arm has been completely reconstructed from the shoulder and now incorrectly shows Aphrodite grasping an apple, and the right foot and ankle have been replaced. Although unclothed, the goddess was once richly adorned with jewelry. The position of her right arm indicates that she originally was adjusting a necklace, and her pierced ears must have been decorated with earrings. A bracelet encircles her right wrist, and a ribbon, once overlaid with silver, ties back her hair. This statue has several known parallels of similar or later date.
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. “Selected Works”. Providence: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 2008.
Mitten, David Gordon. “Classical Bronzes”. Providence: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1975.
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. “A Handbook of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design”. Providence: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1985.