Venus de Milo

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(from the Louvre)

Venus de Milo by the sculptor Alexandros of Antioch-on-the-Meander, is one of the most famous pieces of classical Greek sculpture, easily recognizable by virtue of its missing arms. It is widely considered to set a standard of feminine The Capuan Venus is caught in a pose where Venus admires her reflection in a shield placed close to her knee, while she holds an Apple (the Apple of Discord) in her raised, left hand.

Discovery of the statue

One source says the arms were broken off when a French officer tried to buy the statue.

Twelve days out of Touloun the ship was anchored off the island of Melos. Ashore, d'Urville and [fellow officer] Matterer met a Greek peasant, who a few days earlier while ploughing had uncovered blocks of marble and a statue in two pieces, which he offered cheaply to the two young men. It was of a naked woman with an apple in her raised left hand, the right hand holding a draped sash falling from hips to feet, both hands damaged and separated from the body. Even with a broken nose, the face was beautiful. D'Urville the classicist recognized the Venus of the Judgement of Paris. It was, of course, the Venus de Milo. He was eager to acquire it, but his practical captain, apparently uninterested in antiquities, said there was nowhere to store it on the ship, so the transaction lapsed. The tenacious d'Urville on arrival at Constantinople showed the sketches he had made to the French ambassador, the Marquis de Riviére, who sent his secretary in a French Navy vessel to buy it for France. Before he could take delivery, French sailors had to fight Greek brigands for possession. In the mêlée the statue was roughly dragged across rocks to the ship, breaking off both arms, and the sailors refused to go back to search for them. (Two Voyages to the South Seas,Memoirs of Captain Jules S.-C. Dumont D'Urville,introduction by Helen Rosenmann)

Another source, contemporary author Gregory Curtis, disagrees:

Relating how the French returned to Melos just in time to intercept a Russian boat bearing their treasure away, Curtis dismisses the mythic "fight on the beach" in which the Venus supposedly lost her arms; she had been found without them. (Publisher's Weekly)

Further reading

Piper, David. The Illustrated History of Art. London: Bounty Books, 1981. 42-43.