As a creative, analyzing art is one of my favorite hobbies. Venusian art in particular is interesting because depending on who made it, each piece tells a different story. So go ahead and grab a drink and a snack because we’re going back to B.C.
The first example of Venusian art goes back to the 40th-5th century B.C. with Female anthropomorphic figure “Venus.” Originated in ancient Valdivia (modern day Ecuador). These figures were less than a foot tall and made of stone. They likely resembled actual women as they were all different. This matriarchal culture worshiped fertility and a female cult eventually developed.
Fast forward to the 2nd century B.C. we are graced with Venus of Taurida or the first nude statue of Venus. This statue is one that is commonly thought of when we hear the words Aphrodite or Venus. This statue is actually a copy of Aphrodite of Cnidus but it has elongated proportions that are more refined. This statue was created in ancient Greece and the creator is unknown.
From right to left: Venus of Taurida vs Venus of Cnidus
After many more marble statues over the centuries painting became the preferred medium for artists and Sandro Botticelli created the famous “Birth of Venus.” This painting is probably the most culturally significant of all the works of art in this article. The painting shows Venus being born of seafoam and although we don’t know the exact date it was probably painted around 1484. If you like this painting, definitely check out more of Boticelli’s work like “Primavera” or “Madonna with Saints” because it’s all ethereal.
Next is another more famous piece, “Sleeping Venus” By Giorgione. Created in Venice sometime between 1508 and 1510 this painting is the first large scale depiction of a nude female; previously this type of painting was reserved for small panels on wedding chests. This painting is also special because it is the first time an object is situated correctly according to the rules of depth of space.
After many renditions and variations of “The Birth of Venus,” “Sleeping Venus,” and marble statues we get to “Venus and the Apple” by Bertel Thorvaldson. It was sculpted between 1813 and 1816 and it depicts a Greek story of a party with all the gods except for Eris, the goddess of strife who wasn’t invited. In her anger she threw a golden apple addressed to “the fairest goddess” at the party guests. Then a beauty contest ensued and Venus won the apple. I also think that this sculpture is interesting because it could also be a representation of eve and the apple, illustrating the allure of a beautiful woman; but that’s just my theory. Let me know what you think.
Fast forward to the modern day, Rip Cronk created “Venus on the Half Shell” in 1983. Venus is a SoCal girl roller skating down the street. I love this mural and it’s one of my favorite interpretations of Boticelli’s painting. I like how they froze her in the time of the 1980’s instead of simply recreating it.
Later, Venus was the covergirl of “The New Yorker” magazine twice, once in 1992 and again in 2014. In 1995 she was doing her hair and it is a commentary on natural beauty. “The Birth of Venus” has become a beauty standard since its birth in the 15th century so I think this cover is a cute way to poke fun at it. In 2014 she is on the beach and being photographed with iphones which is commentary on the rise of social media.
Today, Venus is being featured more in music. An honorable mention is Katy Perry saying “Make me your Aphrodite” in her song “Dark Horse.” Although there are many Venusian references in pop culture today Lady Gaga really did the most with her album, “Artpop.” It is chalk full of Venusian references. Before get into it I want to applaud Lady Gaga for her performance art in all aspects of her brand. I watched her go over her outfits over the years with Vogue and that video is a huge inspiration for this article ( I’ll link it at the end, if you like Lady Gaga, fashion, or pop culture you have to watch it. )
“Artpop” came out in 2013 and “The Birth of Venus” is on the album cover so you know it’s gonna be good. The designer, Jeff Koons says the goal placing Gaga in the role of Venus was to portray,
“the pursuit and the enjoyment of aesthetics and of beauty. And of the desire to continually have transcendence.”
I think this quote is a great explanation of Venus’ role in pop culture today because Venus is an ancient sex symbol and she literally embodies indulging in beauty, sex, and accepting pleasure even if it may seem superficial. I think that she is especially a good figure for women because for most of history our pleasure has been seen as taboo or forbidden. So I think it’s important that we are taking control of this figure.
This brings us to the second track of the album entitled, you guessed it: “Venus.” This song literally talks about blasting off into a higher dimension with Venus. Then the next song is, “G.U.Y” which is chalk full with Greek mythology references. The first line is,
God of sexual desire.”
This song explores female relationships and puts the female in charge of sex which is interesting in a Venusian perspective. The theme of this blog is “The Modern Venus” and I think that the modern Venus is best embodied by women taking this sex symbol for ourselves and letting her empower us. There are even more references in this song but I’ll let you listen to it for yourself 🙂 .
I know I’m going crazy talking about Gaga but this album is gold for this topic. I actually tried to write an article about Venus in pop culture a few months ago so I’ve been waiting soooo patiently to analyze this album. Which brings me to the G.U.Y short film. Gaga depicts herself being reborn from water as Venus which is a blatant “Birth of Venus” reference. Again there are many references in this work but I want to inspire you to analyze it yourself.
During this era Gaga had fashion MO-MENT getting off of a plane in a full Venus costume complete with a seashell Bikini. She says it was just a show for the paparazzi but I think it’s awesome marketing considering she was into fashion before she was a musician. Another in person mention is her VMAs performance of “Applause” where she wore a head to toe Venus ensemble again with a strawberry blonde wig and seashell bikini. She also wore this in the “Applause” music video.
I know that this seems like a lot of art but there are so many works that I didn’t cover. Venus has been an icon since ancient Greece. Her image has been a symbol of beauty, sex, taboo, and now empowerment. Not only is she laced throughout human culture but she speaks everywhere from the night sky to the rose growing out of the ground. To some she is just a myth but to me she is a living legend.
Lady Gaga Iconic Looks Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gW_OSQgHhAc