Venus de’ Medici

Artist

Artist unknown

Date

copy, about 1790, after the ancient Greek original, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Medium

Marble

Dimensions

62 3/8 x 17 1/4 x 18 3/4 in. (158.4 x 43.8 x 47.6 cm)

Description

This superb marble is a copy of the famous Venus that was in the collection of the Medici family in Florence as early as 1598 and that, in the mid-seventeenth century, was installed in the Tribuna, the central room in the Uffizi that was dedicated to the most important works in the collection. Over the centuries, the Venus de’ Medici was revered as the most beautiful of all the images of the goddess of love and beauty and, by the eighteenth century, was an obligatory stop on any European Grand Tour.

As an icon of Western art, the Venus has been replicated many times. This rare, finely-carved marble version was purchased in Italy in the early nineteenth century by the Bostonian William Sawyer and deposited by him at Boston’s Medical College in 1816. There it served the same purpose that it does today at the Boston Athenæum: to teach and inspire by classical example, reminding all who see it of the possibilities of human perfection, if not in the body then at least in the spirit. For the neoclassical sculptors of the nineteenth century, the Venus de’ Medici was the embodiment of female beauty and the inspiration for the scores of modern “Venuses” that they produced.

Credit Line

Gift of Hannah Sawyer (Mrs. George G.) Lee, 1861

Object Number

UH67