The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Comment on Venus Priapus

Examples of descriptions of Venus with the Apple:

  • Just Mathias Thiele, op. cit., 1831, p. 64:
    “Undaunted by this dangerous subject-matter, the artist depicted his Venus with the beauty-prize in her hand. Her robe, which she had removed on Paris’s request, is cast upon a tree stump. While she raises the apple with her right hand, flush with victory, she reaches for the robe with her left hand, in order to conceal her grace once more.”
  • Ludvig Müller, op. cit., 1848, A11:
    “In her right hand, the goddess holds upraised the beauty-prize awarded her by Paris, while she takes hold of the discarded robe with her left in order to clothe herself again.”
  • Eugène Plon, op. cit., 1874, p. 202:
    “The goddess, with her left hand, is already taking up the garment which, before presenting herself to Paris, she had laid on the trunk of a tree. The right arm is drawn near the body by a movement which, though graceful, is lacking a little in freedom; the hand holds the apple, the prize of victory. The head, slightly inclined, is expressive of gratified pride and divine serenity in her triumph.”
  • Julius Lange, op. cit., 1886, pp. 145-146:
    “Venus stands trembling, marveling in contemplation of the apple, the beauty-prize set by the gods. First her beauty unfurled itself in the contest; but now that victory is attained, it folds itself up again like a mimosa.”
  • Erik Moltesen, op. cit., 1929, pp. 132-134:
    “Like the Capitoline Venus and the Venus Medici—and hardly uninfluenced by them—she is thin and limber like a lily stem, and wholly naked … But unlike them—and unlike Canova’s closely related portraits of Venus—she is reserved and chaste … Nor is there any triumph in the way she lifts and regards the apple. Rather, she seems somewhat distracted … With her other hand, she reaches for her clothes, which she had taken off, no doubt unwillingly, and set on a tree stump, in order to show herself to Paris in all of her beauty. She longs to cover herself, but in truth she does not need to do so: no eye will dwell on her immodestly. One does not think of her nakedness at all, but simply loses oneself in pleasure as one’s eye glides along her lines from curve to curve. And precisely this gliding smoothness is what is characteristic of this figure. As she stands, one could easily get the impression that a mere moment ago she glided out of a bud like a flower … Even though a connection undoubtedly, if indirectly, can be drawn between Thorvaldsen’s statue of the goddess of love and Praxiteles’ statue in Knidos, one would … in all likelihood feel it as like the relation between the moon and the sun. Thorvaldsen’s Venus will lead no young men to ruin on account of erotic love [...]”
  • Jørgen Birkedal Hartmann, op. cit., 1979, p. 63:
    “Thorvaldsen has depicted the goddess as the victor of the Judgment of Paris, contemplatively regarding the apple she has won as the prize of her victory—a motif also treated variously in statues from classical antiquity. With her left hand, she reaches for her robe, discarded on a tree stump … One moment from now, Venus will cover her body with a light cloth, which is [now] lying on the tree stump.”
  • Mikkel Bogh, op. cit., 1997, p. 35:
    “If anything, the statue of Venus is an archetype of a figure that is isolated despite all its loneliness, whose contemplation of an object leaves it oblivious, shutting out every intrusion from the surrounding world … [The statue’s self-defense] is first and foremost a defense against the intrusion of the beholding gaze, and in a wider sense protection against the surrounding world, which can disrupt the still waters of the soul in equilibrium.”
  • Harald Tesan, op. cit., 1998, p. 26:
    “In Adonis or in Venus, the body weight is displaced away and to the side, indeed quite far over the supporting column. Deftly balanced, their bodies still appear in a state of horizontal lability or transitoriness. Most transitory of all is the statuary of the so-called “victorious” Venus. She props up the weight of her upper body with the same hand with which she is reaching for the robe that hangs on the tree stump. Though this is at first barely noticeable, the goddess of love does not convey the impression of a self-determining being, but rather that of a thing at the mercy of fate.”
  • Stefano Grandesso, op. cit., 2015 (it. 2010), p. 56:
    “The derivation from the classical prototype of the Venus Cnidus in the Vatican Museums is not highlighted, but the idealised anatomical scheme is nonetheless redolent of antiquity and expresses the concept of ‘grace’ with simplicity and austerity but without sensuality, despite her complete nakedness.”
  • David Bindman, op. cit., 2014, p. 96, 98:
    “Yet though the full nakedness of Thorvaldsen’s Venus evokes the Venus de’ Medici, the pose is strikingly unclassical. The virginal figure shies away from Paris’s gift, examining the apple quizzically. The emphasis on the reception of the apple contains an unmistakable echo of an early Renaissance representation of the Virgin Annunciate, who often receives the Angel’s salutation with a comparable mixture of modest retirement and surprise [...] Just as the Virgin Annunciate is on the cusp of womanhood, so in Thorvaldsen’s figure Paris’s choice of Venus is the moment of her awakening to sexuality [...] Thorvaldsen’s virginal Venus then can be seen as a Venus Coelestis, a representation of sacred love…”

Last updated 22.12.2015