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The Statue of Aphrodite of Cnidus

Mar 29, 2008
It is believed that the Aphrodite of Cnidus, created by Greek artist Praxiteles in the 4th Century BC, was the first statue to feature a life sized nude female. The statue depicted Aphrodite preparing for her virginity restoring bath. A drapery is being dropped by the left hand and the other hand covers her genitals. The statue was a masterpiece in its realistic construction and daring sexuality.

The story goes that the residents of Kos commissioned an Aphrodite statue from the artist, who created fully clothed and nude versions of the piece. Kos chose the clothed version but its existence isn't well supported in records and, like many works from ancient Greece, did not survive. The nude Aphrodite was bought by the residents of Knidos who put it in an open temple that allowed spectators to view it as it was meant to be seen- from all sides.

The bold, proud and erotic stance of Aphrodite made it the most famous work done by Praxiteles and made it somewhat of a tourist attraction. The Knidians rejected an offer by Nicomedes I to wipe clean their debts in exchange for the statue. A stain on the marble on the back of one of the statue's thighs led to the tale that it was so realistic a man try to fornicate with it.

The Aphrodite from Knidos did not survive, probably moved to Constantinople then lost in the fires. Numerous copies were made and from those we gather our evidence of what the original looked like. Perhaps one of the great tragedies in art history was the number of Greek masterpieces such as this that were lost or destroyed due to invasions and wars. Artists throughout the ages have created works inspired by the original Aphrodite of Cnidus.

The woman believed to have been the model for the original statue is somewhat famous in her own right. The courtesan Phryne charged her customers based on how much she liked them. She imposed such a hefty fee on the King of Lydia that he had to put an extra tax on his subjects to cover it but gave herself for free to Diogenes of Sinope, a philosopher whose mind she admired. Renowned for her beauty, she was put on trial when she was accused of being profane to the Eleusinian mysteries. Defended by one of her lovers, she was acquitted when she (or he, by some accounts) bore her breasts to the jury.

Praxiteles wasn't the only artist she inspired. She modeled for Apelles for his painting Aphrodite Anadyomene- the concept of which he developed upon seeing her strip and walk into the sea in front of a crowd during a festival for Poseidon. Long after her death, Jean-Leon Gerome based his painting Phrynedevant l'Areopage on the beautiful courtesean. In literature, she inspired the Charles Baudelaire poems La beaute and Lesbos as well as Rainer Maria Rilke's Die Flamingos. The modern Greek writer and poet Dimitris Varos wrote an entire eponymous book on the courtesan.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for magic, art, and Tantra. You can find the best marketplace for magic, art, and Tantra at these 3 sites for magic, art, Aphrodite of Cnidus, and Tantra.
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