Colonna Venus (Aphrodite of Knidos)
The Colonna Venus is a Roman Imperial Period copy of the famous Aphrodite of Knidos by the Attic sculptor Praxiteles. While the statue is a high quality replica, most scholars consider it to be dry and academic, lacking the vitality of the original. It is better preserved than many other copies.
The Colonna Venus, as its name states, was originally part of the Colonna family private collection. The statue can be dated as first appearing at the Vatican in 1783. It was one of four Venus statues given to Pope Pius VI by Filippo Guiseppe Colonna. It became part of the Museo Pio-Clementino.
When the museum was opened to the public, the statue was altered with a metal drapery that wrapped around the legs in an effort to censor its perceived erotic appeal. Scholars, artists and others mocked the "faux modesty" drape and it was finally removed in 1932.
Another model hosted here at Scan the World shows the statue as it formerly was with the modesty drape: https://www.myminifactory.com/object/3d-print-aphrodite-34123
The original statue was created around the middle to late part of the 300s B.C.E. and stood somewhere in the city of Knidos. Despite being a cult statue, it became a tourist attraction and made Knidos famous.
The statue was famous for not only being one of the first larger than life female nudes but also showing Aphrodite completely naked.
The statue was not intended to be overtly erotic. Instead, Praxiteles depicted Aphrodite as entering or exiting her bath. She was shown becoming aware of a voyeur and instinctively reacting by holding her discarded drape in her left hand while shielding her genitals with her right hand. There was a complex message in the pose: Aphrodite was looking towards her left, using her drapery and the hydria as a visual barrier. The hydria also recalled her marine birth. Her right hand was not only shielding her genitals, but also drawing attention to the source of her powers of fertility, sex, and love.
No mortal could look directly at a god or goddess without being utterly consumed in flames but Aphrodite could make herself safe to view and shielding her genitals was part of that action.
The statue and Praxiteles became the subjects of titillating stories that were likely apocryphal. In one story, Aphrodite heard about the statue and came to see it herself. Upon examining it closely, she was heard to exclaim "Where did Praxiteles see me naked?" In another story, Praxiteles supposedly made a clothed and nude Aphrodite for the people of Kos. They rejected the nude and Knidos purchased it. Yet another story stated that Praxiteles mistress, Phryne, posed for him. Finally one story related how a love-struck young man hid himself in the temple one night and attempted to have sex with it.
The statue was removed to the city of Constantinople where it was displayed in the Palace of Lausus as part of a large collection of famous pagan and cult sculptures. Unfortunately, the statue was probably destroyed about 475 C.E. during a massive fire that consumed much of the city.