Aphrodite or Venus is the goddess of love. Her name has become synonymous with Love and Beauty, and to this day, artists embody in them their idea of Beauty.
In ancient myths, the image of Aphrodite is not so romantic. According to one of the earliest versions, it came from the blood of Uranus rounded by Cronus, which fell into the sea and formed foam. In this myth, the first principle of Aphrodite is traced, not so much the goddess of love, as the patroness of procreation, the sea, eternal spring and life, giving abundance. She is much more ancient than the god-ruler Zeus, she is the bearer of life. At the same time, Erinia and giants appeared from the blood of Uranus, personifying the terrible impulses of the unconscious.
Sculpture of the 5th century BC. depicts not a flirtatious and capricious woman, but a powerful goddess with an almost male figure, in whose image the features of the Great Mother are still preserved. She does not have a mirror in her hand, an attribute of a getter, but a bouquet of flowers, in accordance with her epithets “sacred garden”, “Aphrodite in stems”.
She is dressed, which is typical of the early images of Aphrodite, when the erotic principle has not yet prevailed over all the others, and only one shoulder is exposed with sliding fabric, the sculptures of which sculptured with great skill.
But gradually the love of man and woman became more and more important for people, and not numerous offspring, and Aphrodite accepts the functions of the goddess of carnal love. In mythology, she is now called the daughter of Zeus and Dione, her birth from the blood of Uranus is almost forgotten. The goddess takes on more and more flirtatious features and an affectionate and ironic attitude towards her, which is worth the same story as getting into networks woven by Hephaestus.
In the art of archaic and classical, she appeared in robes, starting from the 4th century. BC. – half-naked or completely naked, her image is becoming more erotic.
Aphrodite of Milos (end of III, beginning of II century BC) stands somewhat apart. She cannot be called flirty, she is calm, harmonious and beautiful, combining the features and patroness of procreation, and the beautiful goddess of Love, and the earthly woman.
But the Hellenic culture is being replaced by the ascetic Middle Ages, and Venus, the goddess of carnal love, recedes into the shadows.
It becomes not customary to show sinful flesh naked. Women in medieval paintings are not an object of lust, and a nude figure can only be seen in the images of Adam and Eve, and among sinners tormented in hell.
Cranach the Elder. Venus
One of the first artists in Germany who decided to portray Venus was Lucas Cranach the Elder. In the south of Europe, Titian and Giorgione are already doing, but for Germany, the image of the naked pagan goddess already says a lot. The “Venus” of Cranach is in many ways unique. It touchingly combines the aesthetics of the Middle Ages and new trends: rounded, even stooped shoulders, a small chest and the figure of a teenage girl, are so unlike the proportional Venus, Diane and Psyche of Italian masters. But the theme of the picture, and the landscape in the background – the influence of the Renaissance is visible in everything.
In Italy and Florence, numerous images of Venus appear, as if the days of pagan worship of this goddess had returned. Artists draw in the form of Venus their lovers, and sometimes customers. Titian creates a series of paintings: Venus and Cupid, Venus and Cupid with an Organist. “Venus in front of a mirror”, “Venus with a dog and an organist”, where Venus appears as a contemporary of the artist.
In general, the image of Venus in the Renaissance is a beautiful, harmonious, mature woman: such is the “Sleeping Venus” by Giorgione.
Botticelli is a deviation from the mainstream of the Italian Renaissance, focused on a clear, logical, rational form, it had something strange, nervous. Poetry is combined with painful breakdown in them, the composition is fanciful and mysterious, the contours are rigidly drawn. The artist does not focus on the plot, the musical plasticity of the lines in which the inherent irrationality and mystical religiosity are expressed is more important to him. Botticelli invested in them a complex philosophical and allegorical meaning; maybe he really tried in the image of Aphrodite to merge the features of pagan, bodily, Christian and spiritual beauty. Forgotten for a long time, it again became popular at the end of the 19th century, especially in the circles of English intellectuals, from the Pre-Raphaelites to artists of the Art Nouveau era.
Victorian era as if in miniature repeated the Middle Ages. Again, the dictates of the church, critics condemn all works of an erotic nature, calling them immoral.