The Venus de Milo is iconic. Why? It turns out a missing piece might have something to do with it.
In this episode of Vox Almanac, Vox’s Phil Edwards explores the secret history of the Venus de Milo, the famous armless statue from Greece. Found in 1820, the Venus de Milo was always considered notable, but a complicated political situation is what made the statue iconic.
French art and the Louvre were struggling when Venus was discovered. A large cache of art, looted by Napoleon from around the world, had recently been returned to various home countries, and that left a huge gap in the Louvre’s classical art collection. Venus was the perfect solution — and the French went to extreme lengths to make sure nobody questioned her legitimacy. The result was a globally famous statue with a complicated and secretive history.
Watch the above video to learn more. You can find this video and all of Vox’s Almanac series on YouTube.
Disarmed by Gregory Curtis
Incredibly detailed, this book immerses you in the life and times of one of the world’s most famous statues.
“The Venus de Milo: Genesis of a Modern Myth” by Philippe Jockey
This paper provides the clearest synopsis of how and why the French concealed the truth about the Venus de Milo.
“Creating the Past: The Vénus de Milo and the Hellenistic Reception of Classical Greece” by Rachel Kousser
Kousser helpfully grounds the Venus in the Hellenistic era (and provides a good summary of her discovery and subsequent theories).
You can also 3D-print your own Venus de Milo here.