Greece in the News: Venus’ spindle

Everyone loves a good Aphrodite. Especially when her arms have been lost. It’s probably fair to say that the Louvre’s version is one of the most famous out there.

There are multiple categories of Google images dedicated to her arms’ reconstruction (plus several celebrities striking a pose). Here’s just a sample:

An article at Slate shows off what the Venus de Milo would look like if she was originally spinning, a suggestion that dates back to the mid-20th century:

3D print of Venus de Milo Spinning Thread, left, and computer re

Their take?

The re-creation provides a plausible answer to a question posed by the original advocate of a spinning Venus

Plausible? Maybe from that angle. But what happens when you circle around behind? I had never heard this theory before today, possibly because it seems to ignore the various possible views of Venus’ drapery. Here’s a 3-d rendering of the Louvre statue:

What you should immediately notice is that her hip-mantle is falling off, and the laws of gravity require that poor Venus hold one end:

my favorite! Duct tape genius.

Elizabeth Wayland Barber, who has argued against the drapery pose, supports the theory of Venus as a spinner. But I wonder. Barber’s reconstruction imagines the elbow placement of Venus’ right arm (as one must, given the state of preservation). But why does it need to be held straight?

Venus de Milo : spinning?

If this elbow angled more obtusely (rather than close to a right angle), it could easily grasp the folds of the mantle at the left hip. (NB: since there are actually surviving ancient miniatures of Aphrodite in the ‘traditional’ pose, I am more inclined to believe that the spinning theory is wrong. Always important to make biases known.) Also, is it coincidence that all of her comparanda are fully clothed? I agree that spinning was crucial woman’s work — but Aphrodite is not exactly your ordinary Greek woman.

Of course, I guess that means she doesn’t need to use her hands to hold up her underwear….

venus with suspenders

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

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