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Related: erotic art - goddess - love - Rome - Venus in Furs (film) - Venus in Furs (novel)

Venus is the Roman goddess of love and in art terminology a synonym for a female nude.

Venus mural at Pompeii (pre-79 AD)

The mural of Venus from Pompeii was never seen by Botticelli, the painter of The Birth of Venus, but may have been a Roman copy of the then famous painting by Apelles which Lucian mentioned. In classical antiquity, the sea shell was a metaphor for a woman's vulva. [Jan 2006]

Venus, c. 1485 - Botticelli

Sleeping Venus (c.1501) - Giorgione

The painting, one of the last Giorgione's works, portrays a naked woman whose profile seems to follow that of the hills in the background. Giorgione put a great attention in painting the background details and shadows. The choice of a naked woman marked a revolution in art, and is considered by some authorities one of the starting points of modern art. [Jan 2006]

Venus of Urbino 1538 - Titian, (Oil on canvas, 119 x 165 cm, Uffizi, Florence)

In his 1880 travelogue A Tramp Abroad Mark Twain called the Venus of Urbino 'the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses'. He proposed that 'it was painted for a bagnio and it was probably refused because it was a trifle too strong', adding humorously that 'in truth, it is a trifle too strong for any place but a public art gallery'.

Venus of Urbino inspired the later painting Olympia by Édouard Manet, in which the figure of Venus was replaced with a prostitute. [Jan 2006]

The Toilet of Venus ('The Rokeby Venus') (1647-51) - Diego Velázquez

The painting is unique for being the only surviving female nude by Velázquez, and one of only two such paintings in all of 17th-century Spanish art, which was often censored by the Spanish Inquisition. It was revolutionary for its depiction of the nude female form with its back facing the viewer. The composition has only three main colours: red, white and grey, which include the pigment of Venus's skin. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rokeby_Venus [Jan 2006]

La Maja desnuda (c.1800) - Francisco de Goya

La Maja vestida (c.1800) - Francisco de Goya

Two of Goya's most famous pictures, shown above, are known as The Clothed Maja and The Nude Maja (La Maja vestida and La Maja desnuda). They depict the same woman in the same pose, clothed and naked respectively. La Maja Vestida was painted after outrage in Spanish society over the previous Desnuda. He refused to paint clothes on her, and so simply created a new painting. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_Goya [Feb 2005]

Birth of Venus (1883) - Alexandre Cabanel

Olympia 1865 - Edouard Manet (Oil on canvas, 130.5 x 190 cm, Musee d'Orsay, Paris)

Manet's Olympia did not depict a goddess or an odalisque, but a high-class prostitute waiting for a client. The classic work that most closely resembles Manet's in character is Francisco Goya's La Maja Desnuda (c. 1800). [Jan 2006]

Ursula Andress in Dr No (1962) (The combination of sea, shells, and a stunning blonde has led some critics to trace the inspiration for this scene to Botticelli's The Birth of Venus).


Venus is the Roman goddess of love, equivalent to Greek Aphrodite and Etruscan Turan.

Her cult began in Ardea and Lavinium, Latium. On August 18, 293 BC, her oldest temple was built.

Venus became a popular subject of painting and sculpture during the Renaissance period in Europe. As a "classical" figure for whom nudity was her natural state, it was socially acceptable to depict her unclothed. As the goddess of sexual healing, a degree of erotic beauty in her presentation was justified, which had an obvious appeal to many artists and their patrons. Over time, "venus" came to refer to any artistic depiction of a nude woman, even when there was no indication that the subject was the goddess.

According to German legend, Tannhäuser was a knight and poet, who found the Venusburg, or subterranean home of Venus and spent a year there enchanted by Venus.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_(mythology)

Venus effect

The Toilet of Venus ('The Rokeby Venus') (1647-51) - Diego Velázquez

The Venus effect is a phenomenon in the psychology of perception. As shown in the illustration the natural assumption is that Venus is admiring her own reflection in the mirror. In fact if the viewer can see her face, then Venus would actually be looking at the viewer's face.

This psychological "trick" is often used in the cinema, where an actor will be shown apparently looking at himself in the mirror, with the camera just out of shot. In fact, the actor will be looking at the camera and just be pretending to see himself in the mirror. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_effect [Jan 2006]

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