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Venus of Willendorf

The Venus of Willendorf has been a widely discussed piece of art from the prehistoric art era since its discovery by Josef Szombathy in 1908. The small, four-inch, figurine was carved by hand from a fine porous oolitic limestone; which is not found in Willendorf, Austria, where it was found. The artist carved this voluptuous looking woman with the breasts and pubic area having an exaggerated look. This woman figure has very big curves for a woman of this time period. Historians believe that women of this time would have been skinnier, since most tribes members were hunters and gatherers; so they were constantly on the move not letting them be heavy in weight. With this in mind, some historians believe that this figurine could be of a woman of importance; one who had others hunt and gather for her.

The name of the artwork does not fit it justly. The name Venus of Willendorf was given to this piece of art by Szombathy when he discovered her. Many believe this name to be an insult or a joke since its origin comes from the Roman and Greek goddess Venus, who was a young beautiful woman with a thin slender body. The differences between these two Venuses are extreme. The goddess Venus is usually depicted as a young nkaed attractive woman that tends to cover her breasts and pelvic areas; where the Venus of Willendorf has big breasts and inflated pubic area, which are exposed for everyone to see. Venus of Willendorf also has no face, leading some to believe that it was not modeled after someone specific but more of a charm of some sort.

The figurine’s lack of facial features leads historians to believe the figurine is more symbolic than the depiction of a specific woman. This figure seems to have a sense of beauty, or at least what the artist thought of beauty. Many historians believe that this figurine could be a fertility charm, one that brings good luck to a woman trying to bare a child. Based on this theory, the figurine may resemble the beauty of a pregnant woman, emphasizing the breasts and pubic areas because of the idea of a fertility figurine.

When I look at this piece of artwork, my first reaction is that it looks heavy, and without knowing the actual size of this figure, I would say it looks like a large sculpture of a heavy woman. With the knowledge that this artwork is small enough to fit in my hand, it changes my whole perspective of this piece. I can see the beauty and delicacy in this piece of art.

I can see that the artist took his or her time with it and that it had some significant value. I feel that if I was able to hold this in my own hands that I could feel the smooth edges and the elegance that the piece seems to have. It may seem offensive or vulgar for the piece to be fully nude as well as to have exaggerated breasts and a pubic area; however without those key factors, this piece would not be a hot topic for historians to keep discussing. It would not have the impact on people that is does now. I personally like this small figurine and find the thoughts and feeling that art historians have on this piece to be very insightful and interesting.

I agree with the art historians that debate Venus of Willendorf to be a symbolic figurine of fertility or some significance in that nature for the person who owns it. I believe this to be true because of the elegance that it possesses in the way it looks. I also believe it to be of someone with importance, maybe some kind of goddess that would bring the person baring it good luck in its purpose. I don’t think it is to depict the way women looked back then, but to be a symbolic charm or small statue to give praise to an important woman from that time.