Venus of Willendorf

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Venus of Willendorf

By | April 2005
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This paper will discuss relative points and insights relating to sculpture of the Paleolithic era, specifically the Venus of Willendorf, through the essays of Christopher Witcombe.

Venus is a term that has long been associated with artwork, most specifically the classical forms of beautiful women. The term Venus has also come to represent female sculptures of the Paleolithic era. The most notable of these female sculptures is the Venus of Willendorf, 24,000-22,000 BCE. The age of the figurine has been changed several times. Originally when found the date was estimated to be 15,000 to 10,000 BCE. During the 1970's the time period was adjusted to 25,000 to 20,000 BCE; the date was again recalculated in the 1980's to 30,000 to 25,000 BCE; the most recent estimate of age was in the 1990's and was placed at 24,000 to 22,000 BCE after scientific research was performed on the rock stratification. This statuette was discovered by Josef Szombathy in 1908 near the town of Willendorf, Austria, in an Aurignacian loess deposit, which loosely defined is a yellow brown loamy geological deposit dating to the Paleolithic period. The name Venus was first associated with the figurine as a joke. The small, crudely carved statuette of an obese woman contrasts heavily from the graceful classical forms of sculpture such as Aphrodite of Cnidos, Praxiteles, 350 BCE. Although it would be difficult to associate the word beautiful with this statuette, there can be no doubt that it reflects the female form. The statuette has also been known as "la poire" or "the pear" due to its size and shape and more recently was donned the Woman from Willendorf. The removal of the title Venus served to take away the figurine's status of goddess and lower it to the human level, therefore allowing more consideration of the figurine's purpose (Witcombe, sec. 3).

The sculpture is small, approximately 4 3/8 inches, and is carved of oolitic stone, a porous limestone. Since this particular stone is not...