The museum bought the charmingly prudish portrait of the goddess of love, whom the Greeks called Aphrodite and the Romans Venus, for $968,000 at a Sotheby's auction in New York on June 6. A private collector in Houston, Texas, agreed to sell to those who purchased the body at the auction the head as well, which was last documented attached to the body in 1836. The head sold for about $50,000.
The 4-foot-6-inch statue is a marble copy from the late 1st century A.D. of an earlier Greek bronze sculpture, which many scholars argue is the most widely reproduced female statue in antiquity.
One of the copies, on view at Rome's Capitoline Museums since the 18th century, counted Mark Twain among its admirers, and was one of a handful of artworks neoclassical artists looked up to for inspiration. Today, it's one of the most visited attractions there.
"When you have one of the best and most complete examples of one of the finest statues in the ancient world, that's rather thrilling," said Jasper Gaunt, curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Carlos, who bought the statue with a donation from Thalia Carlos, widow of the museum's namesake. Michael Carlos, who died in 2002, made a fortune in the wine and spirits wholesale industry.
It portrays a Venus caught off guard as, having removed all her clothes to take a bath, she glimpses an unseen onlooker. She tries to cover herself with her hands, with a result that's more provocative than protective. A small figure of Eros rides a dolphin at her feet, a reference to the goddess' birth from the sea, the AP reports
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