previous next


1. Statues of Aphrodite. By far the most celebrated work of the master, and that in which he doubtless put forth all his power, was the marble statue of Aphrodite, which was distinguished from other statues of the goddess by the name of the Cnidians, who purchased it. The well-known story, related by Pliny (Plin. Nat. 36.5. s. 4.5), is that the artist made two statues of Aphrodite, of which the one was draped, the other not. In his own opinion, they were of equal value, for he offered them for sale together at the same price. The people of Cos, who had always possessed a character for severe virtue, Purchased the draped statue, severum id ac pudicum arbitrantes; the other was bought by the Cnidians, and its fame almost entirely eclipsed the merits of the rival work. It was always esteemed the most perfectly beautiful of the statues of the goddess. According to Pliny, it surpassed all other works, not only of Praxiteles, but in the whole world; and many made the voyage to Cnidus expressly to behold it. So highly did the Cnidians themselves esteem their treasure, that when King Nicomedes offered them, as the price of it, to pay off the whole of their heavy public debt, they preferred to endure any suffering rather than part with the work which gave their city its chief renown. It was afterwards carried, with the Samian Hera and the Lindian Athena, to Constantinople, where it perished by fire, with innumerable other works of art, in the reign of Justinian. (Zonar. 14.2.)

The temple in which it stood at Cnidus was so constructed, that the beauties of the statue could be seen equally well from every point of view.

Of the numerous descriptions and praises of the statue, which abound in the ancient authors, the one which gives us the best notion of it is that of Lucian (Amor. 13, 14, vol. ii. pp. 411, 412; comp. Imag. 6, vol. ii. p. 463.) The material was the purest and most brilliant Parian marble; the form was in every respect perfect; the position of the left hand was the same as in the Venus de Medici ; the right hand held some drapery which fell over a vase standing by her; the face wore supposed by the ancients to indicate the appearance of the goddess when Paris adjudged to her the prize of beauty :

Οὔτε σε Πραξιτέλης τεχνάσατο, οὕθ᾽ σίδαρος,
Ἀλλ᾽ οὕτως ἔστης, ὥς ποτε κρινομένη

an opinion, which, however well it may have accorded with the grace and beauty of the work, cannot be regarded as the true expression of the intention of the artist, for the drapery and vase by the side of the figure indicate that she has either just left or is about to enter the bath. The representation of the goddess as standing before Paris is rather to be seen in the Venus de Medici and in the copy, by Menophantus, of the Aphrodite in the Troad. (Plato, Epig. 10, apud Brunck, Anal. vol. i. p. 171, Anth. Plan. 4.161, Jacobs, Anth. Pal. App. vol. ii. p. 675; comp Even in Anth. Plan. 4.166, Jacobs, l.c., p. 676, and several other epigrams, which stand with these in the Anthology of Planudes; Auson. Epig. 56; Athenag. Legat. pro Christ. 14, p. 61; Jacobs, in Wieland's Attisches Museum, vol. iii. pp. 24, f., 29, f.) This statue appears to have been the first instance in which any artist had ventured to represent the goddess entirely divested of drapery. The artist modelled it from a favourite courtezan named Phryne (Ath. xiii. pp. 585, 591), of whom also he made more than one portrait statue. (Paus. 9.27.4. s. 5, 10.14.5. s. 7; Ael. VH 9.32 ; Tatian. Orat. ad Graec. 53, p. 115, ed. Worth.) This statue was, therefore, a new ideal of the goddess; which was frequently imitated by succeeding artists. It is, however, very doubtful which, or whether any, of the existing statues of Venus, are copies of the Cnidian Aphrodite. Its type is preserved on coins of Cnidos, struck in hosour of Plautilla, and on gems: the marble statues, which are probably copies of it, are the following: one in the garden of the Vatican; another in the Museo Pio-Clementino, which, however, is supposed by Böttiger to be a copy of the Coan, on account of the drapery which covers part of the figure, which Visconti, and most of the subsequent writers, take to be a mere addition made by the artist in copying the Cnidian statue ; another, which was formerly in the Braschi palace, and is now in the Glyptothek at Munich ; there are also some busts after it. (Rasche, Lex Rei Num. s. v. Cnidus ; Eckhel, Doct. Num. Vet vol. ii. p. 580; Lippert, Dactyl. 1.50.81; Perrier, No. 85; Episcopius, No. 86; Mus. Pio-Clem. i. II; Flaxman, Lectures on Sculpture, pl. xxii. ; Müller, Arch. d. Kunst, § 127, n. 4, Denkmäler d. alt. Kunst, vol. i. pl. xxxv. No. 146, a. b. c. d., vol. ii. pl. xxv. No. 277.) It has been the subreign of Justject of much discussion among the writers on art, whether or not the Venus de Medici is an imitation of the Cnidian Aphrodite. (See Heyne, Antig. Aufsätze, vol. i. pp. 123, f.; Winckelmann, Gesch. d. Kunst, b. 5.2.3; Meyer, zu Winck. l.c., and Bcilage viii. zu, b. ix., Gesch. d. Kunst, vol. i. p. 113; Visconti, Mus. Pio-Clem. vol. i. p. 18 ; Levezow, Ob die Med. Ven. ein Bild. d. Knid. sei ; Thiersch, Epochen, p. 288; Müller, Arch. d. Kunst, l.c.) The truth appears to be that Cleomenes, in making the Venus de Medici, had the Venus of Praxiteles in his mind, and imitated it in some degree; but the difference in the treatment of the subject is sufficient to prevent the one being considered a copy of the other. Types between the two are seen in the Aphrodite of Menophantus and in the Capitoline Venus; of which the latter, while preserving the drapery and vessel of the Cnidian statue, has almost exactly the attitude and expression of the Venus de Medici. (See Müller, Denkmäler, vol. ii. pl. xxvi. n. 278.)

The supposed copies of the Coan Venus are even more doubtful than those of the Cnidian. Indeed, with the exception of that in the Museo Pio-Clementino, already mentioned, there is none which can with any probability be regarded as a copy of it. A fine conjectural restoration of it is given in plate xxiii. to Flaxman's Lectures on Sculpture.

Besides the Coan and the Cnidian, Praxiteles made other statues of Aphrodite, namely : one in bronze which, Pliny tells us, was considered equal to the Cnidian, and which perished at Rome in the fire in the reign of Claudius (Plin. Nat. 34.8. s. 19.10); another, of Pentelic marble, at Thespiae (Paus. 9.27.3); another at Alexandria on Mt. Latmus. (Steph. Byz. s. v.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: