Aphrodite Of Knidos Essays

This statue was inspired by the most famous Greek sculpture of a goddess, the Aphrodite of Knidos. Carved by the sculptor Praxiteles in the 4th century B.C. from fine marble, it enjoyed great renown as the first devotional statue of a female goddess in the nude. It produced an immediate sensation when it was installed in a sacred precinct on the island of Knidos, and, centuries later, it inspired Roman artists to re-create the celebrated image of the goddess. Although the earlier Greek sculpture no longer exists, Roman statues such as this inform us of its likely appearance. However, the function of these later Roman versions was fundamentally different from that of the earlier Greek work: what had once been an object of veneration among the Greeks became a favorite garden ornament for wealthy Romans. Adapted for such a use, the badly marred surface of the statue is the result of prolonged exposure to the elements.

This work appears in the online catalogue Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, featuring art historical essays and conservation reports on artworks from the ancient Roman world in the Art Institute’s collection. Entries include new high-resolution photography, stunning 360-degree views of the works, and in-depth technical imaging and analysis. The volume is free to the public.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

The Art Institute of Chicago, Rotating Permanent Collection, Gallery 143, February 21, 1991-1992.

Art Institute of Chicago, Classical Art from the Permanent Collection, Feb. 1989–Feb. 17, 1990, no cat.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Henry Crown Gallery (Allerton 200), 1981-1986.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 156, April 20, 1994-February 6, 2012.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Of Gods and Glamour: The Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art, Gallery 152, November 11, 2012 - present.

Publication History

Katharine A. Raff, “Cat. 13 Statue of the Aphrodite of Knidos: Curatorial Entry,” in Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 2016).

Rachel C. Sabino, with contributions by Lorenzo Lazzarini, “Cat. 13 Statue of the Aphrodite of Knidos: Technical Report,” in Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 2016).

Karen B. Alexander, “From Plaster to Stone: Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago,” in Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, ed. Karen Manchester (Art Institute of Chicago, 2012), pp. 32; 39, n. 134.

Domnica Radulescu, Sisters of Medea: The Tragic Heroine across Cultures (University Press of the South, 2002), p. 4, fig. 1.

Art Institute of Chicago, Treasures from the Art Institute of Chicago, selected by James N. Wood, with commentaries by Debra N. Mancoff (Art Institute of Chicago, 2000), p. 73 (ill.).

Karen Alexander, “The New Galleries of Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago,” Minerva 5, 3 (May–June 1994), p. 33, fig. 11.

Cornelius C. Vermeule III, “Roman Art,” in “Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago,” special issue, Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 20, 1 (1994), pp. 72–73, cat. 50 (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago, Pocketguide to the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 1988), p. 9, fig. 12.

Art Institute of Chicago, “Report of the Director,” Art Institute of Chicago Annual Report 1980–81 (Art Institute of Chicago, 1981), p. 7, fig. 6.

Art Institute of Chicago, “Departmental Reports,” Art Institute of Chicago Annual Report 1980–81 (Art Institute of Chicago, 1981), p. 14.

Art Institute of Chicago, “Acquisitions,” Art Institute of Chicago Annual Report 1980–81 (Art Institute of Chicago, 1981), p. 49.

The subject of female sexuality has been an important issue throughout time. Some people believe that traditionally class is partially defined by women who are modestly covered, keeping their sexuality a mystery to men with wondering eyes. Others disagree, believing that even a woman of high class has the birth given privilege to use her sexuality to achieve power and control over a predominately male dominated society. In this case, freedom to express one's sexuality is often believed to be a large aspect of liberty. The sculpturor, Praxiteles raised this controversial issue by making the first nude female called "Aphrodite De Knidos" at around 340 BCE during the Late Classical period. This idea turned art masterpiece, brought a whole new perspective on the role of women in the early Greek society.

Kouroi (standing male statues) and Korai (standing female statues) emerged during the Archaic period. Both Koroi and Korai were symbolic of the ideal men and women of utmost prestige.

Kouroi usually emblematized Gods, warriors, and athletes and Korai often represented deities, priestesses and nymphs (female immortals who served the Gods). However, Kouroi were made nude and Korai were made clothed. This was because the women in Greek society were sheltered from the outside world and were expected to tend to household duties. This barrier between women and men was also intended to keep men from being distracted from their socially given duties to create and sustain an ordered society, ensuring the safety of the city-state.

According to Pliny, Aphrodite de Knidos' bare feminine allure was undeniably distracting. Aphrodite de Knidos was a distinct change from the covered and more conservatively posed Kore of the Archaic period. However, during the early Classical period the sensual curvature of the female figure was more noticeably visible, such as in the...


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