Anonymous artist

Venus de’Medici – Charcoal drawing

Anonymous artist

Venus de' Medici from the antique sculpture in the Uffizi Gallery

Date : Late 18th century

Dimensions du feuillet : H : 59 cm, l : 46 cm

place of production: France or Italy

Material : Paper

Condition : Good condition – Restored

Conditions & disponibilité: Available - unframed - framing on request


of work


This large charcoal drawing depicts the Venus de’Medici, a marble statue currently on display in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence’s Palazzo dei Uffizi, a privileged repository for the finest works owned by the Medici in their time.
This drawing demonstrates great mastery in its execution. Almost certainly produced in the late 18th century, it is probably the work of an experienced artist producing a reproduction for travellers on the Grand Tour. The proportions of the subject are perfectly respected. The marble of the sculpture is particularly well rendered, and the light allowing the volumes of the work to be appreciated shows great mastery on the part of the artist.
This drawing has been restored by an accredited professional, who dusted and gummed the reverse and removed the adhesives from the old mounting. This old work was then laid flat.

The Medici Venus is an Aphrodite of modesty. Emerging from the waves, as suggested by the dolphin at her feet, the naked goddess feels observed by an indiscreet gaze. She glances around and, with a graceful gesture, covers her breasts and pubic area. Inspired by a famous sculpture by Praxiteles from the 4th century BC with a similar posture: the Aphrodite of Knidos, this sculpture was very popular in the Hellenistic and Roman eras, and has been reinterpreted several times.
Like its original model, the Aphrodite of Knidos, the Venus de’Medici has been the source of countless copies that can be found today in numerous museums, gardens and parks across Europe.

Venus de Medicis Fratelli Alinari The Getty Museum Grand tour The tribuna of the uffizi fine art
Venus de Medicis - Silver photograph about 1856-1872 - Fratelli Alinari - The Getty Museum

" There she came ashore, an awesome, beautiful divinity. Tender grass sprouted up under her slender feet. Aphrodite is her name in speech human and divine, since it was in foam [...]. " Hesiod, Theogony (verse 194-198 / 8th or 7th c. BC, composed in Greek)

Anonymous artist

the work

in its context

According to the testimony of the antiquarian Pirro Ligorio, in the first half of the 16th century, a fragmented statue of Venus was found in Rome in the area of Trajan’s baths on the Oppian hill.
Then in the possession of the Bishop of Viterbo, the statue was completed with a base from a work by Cleomenes, falsely associating the artist with this sculpture. Acquired by Ferdinand de’ Medici, the statue was kept for almost a century at the Villa Medici on the Pincian hill, before being moved to Florence in 1677 and restored once again by the Lombard sculptor Ercole Ferrata, who added some missing fingers. In 1680, the Venus reached its final destination, being installed in the Uffizi Tribune along with other famous marbles. Confiscated by the French in 1802, the work was transferred to Paris until early 1816, when it returned to Florence.
From the eighteenth century onwards, encouraged by the practice of the Grand Tour, an interest in Antiquity and its particular aesthetic spread throughout Europe. The Grand Tour consisted of young English, French and Prussian aristocrats visiting the remains of ancient civilisations during their formative years. The admired Medici Venus was a must-see for antique dealers and Grand Tour visitors passing through Florence.

The tribuna of the Uffizi Johann Zoffany Queen's gallery London The Venus de'medici Florence
The tribuna of the Uffizi - Johann Zoffany 1722-1728 - Oil painting - Queen's gallery, London The Venus de'medici can be seen on the right, surrounded by visitors from Florence and explorers such as George Finch and James Bruce.

At the same time as the Grand Tour, a new artistic movement, neo-classicism, was developing in the West. Both a reaction to the Baroque and Rococo styles and an expression of the currents of thought nourished by the philosophy of the Enlightenment, Neo-Classicism manifested a desire to return to the sources of art, whose origins were thought to be ancient. Architecture, painting and sculpture were theorised and became vehicles for expressing the virtues attributed to Greek democracy and the Roman republic. The “enlightened” elites and rulers, including monarchs, were seduced and convinced by these ideas, and played an active part in spreading this aesthetic.
It is interesting to note that the original Medici Venus had golden hair, red lips and pierced earlobes to allow the insertion of jewellery. Throughout the 18th century, the gilding of the hair was mentioned by Grand Tour travellers and antiquarians such as Alessandro Maffei, Jonathan Richardson, Montesquieu, Johann Georg Keyssler and Johann Wincklemann. This feature seems to have been forgotten by visitors in the 19th century, perhaps because the gilding was deliberately removed during a restoration influenced by the neoclassical cultural context of the time.

Variant of the 4th century B.C. Aphrodite of Knidos by Praxiteles- Bronze-ca. 150–100 BC - The MET, New York


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