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Roman Empire

Aphrodite or 'Crouching Venus' Second century AD

Marble | 125 x 53 x 65 cm (whole object) | RCIN 69746

  • This marble statue of Aphrodite, also known as the 'Crouching Venus', dates from the Antonine period (2nd century AD) and is a Roman version of a Hellenistic original from 200 BC. Carved in marble, she is depicted in a nude crouching pose, with her hair gathered loosely on her head and partially falling over her left shoulder, with her right arm bent in front her body and her left arm resting on her left leg. There are several antique models of this work, which was described by Pliny in his Natural History (77AD) as being by the hand of the Greek sculptor Doidalsas and displayed in the temple of Jupiter Stator.

    The statue may have belonged to Cardinal Alessandro Peretti (1571-1623). It is certainly recorded in the 1631 inventory of statues from the Gonzaga collection in Mantua, where it may have been seen by, and inspired, Peter Paul Rubens who travelled to Italy in 1600. Poses similar to this sculpture can be seen in several of his works including Shivering Venus (Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp), and after the sculpture was acquired by Charles I in later works also including an adaptation for a nymph in Three Nymphs with a Cornucopia (Dulwich Picture Gallery) and the studies of a crouching nude (University College London) and the very similar pose in Venus Nursing Cupids (private collection Antwerp), as well as several studies in his Theoretical Notebook. The Gonzaga collection was sold by Duke Vincenzo II of Mantua to Charles I. Daniel Nijs, art agent to the English king, described the Crouching Venus as 'the most beautiful sculpture of all' (Nijs to Lord Dorchester, 13 June 1631).

    After Charles I's execution the work was sold in the Commonwealth Sale Inventory of 1650 (lot 10, fol. 61v) in the section headed 'statues being hole figures': '88: Sellena hole figure bigger than ye life £600'. It was bought by Robert Houghton and Dividend and subsequently acquired by the artist Peter Lely, earning it another name of the 'Lely Venus'. By 1682 it had returned to the Royal Collection from the artist.

    In 1902 it was sent from Kensington Palace to Windsor Castle where it was placed in the Orangery. Since 1963 it has been on long term loan to the British Museum.

    Acquired by Charles I

  • Medium and techniques



    125 x 53 x 65 cm (whole object)

    43 cm (Width) x 58 cm (Depth); 86 cm (Circumference) (at base of object)

    600000 g (Weight) (whole object)

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