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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Venus of Willendorf-An Analysis

Believed to have been carved by an early European hunter-gatherer and standing only 11 cms high the Venus of Willendorf is perhaps one of the most compelling sculptures ever made.
Its aesthetic appeal for us perhaps resides in the fine feeling of balance and "rightness" in the handling of the volumes of the head ,torso and lower limbs and fine carving of hair and anatomical detail. Add the mystery of its motives and we have an object that both pleases and perplexes us.
It is thought the figure is a representation of female fertility. Those areas associated with fertility,breasts,buttocks.stomach and labia (suggesting pregnancy) are treated almost to the exclusion of everything else. The figure has no face (it is not a portrayal of an individual) and no feet. The arms are rendered as mere sticks.
Significantly, perhaps, what appears to be braided hair is included. Why leave hair in? Once we reach maturity (that is, our fertile period) the only parts of our bodies that continue to grow are our hair and fingernails. (Hair and fingernail clippings have a long history in sympathetic magic as needing extreme care in handling. Often being destroyed to prevent their use in sorcery). The mystery of hair growth in a pre-scientific age can perhaps easily be seen as an aspect of fertility. (as its loss is a part of loss of fertility). It has also been speculated that the small "pecked out" area (seen best in a back view) is a representation of a braided hair belt circling the stomach area perhaps allying this mysterious power of growth with the significant area of female fertility.
These speculations are perhaps confirmed by another of the venus figurines. Carved into a small piece of limestone and showing a similar treatment of the female figure (but without the aesthetic appeal of the Venus of Willendorf). This figure holds an animal horn that would also exhibit this same mysterious power of growth after maturity

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