In Roman mythology, Venus was the goddess of love, sex, beauty, and fertility. She was the Roman counterpart to the Greek Aphrodite. However, Roman Venus had many abilities beyond the Greek Aphrodite; she was a goddess of victory, fertility, and even prostitution. According to Hesiod's Theogony, Aphrodite was born of the foam from the sea after Saturn (Greek Cronus) castrated his father Uranus (Ouranus) and his blood fell to the sea. This latter explanation appears to be more a popular theory due to the countless artworks depicting Venus rising from the sea in a clam.
In ancient Rome, the first appearance of a temple to Venus was in 295 BCE. It was to Venus Obsequens(Obedient Venus) on the Aventine Hill by Q. Fabius Gurges. However, this temple was diffused with Greek aspects (Aphrodite's cults) and was not a new creation. In 217 BCE, the Sibyline oracle suggested that if Rome (at that time losing the Second Punic War) could persuade Venus Eyrcina (Venus of Eryx) to change her allegiance from the Carthagian Silician allies to the Romans, the war would be won. Rome laid siege to Eryx, offered the goddess a magnificent temple and took her image back to Rome. It was this foreign image that eventually became Rome's Venus Genetrix (Venus the Mother). The cult forming around Venus Genetrix on the Capitoline Hill was reserved for the higher-classes, but in 181 BCE and 114 BCE the temples and cult of Venus Eycina and Venus Verticordia (Venus the changer of hearts) were established for the plebeians.
Venus' month was April (the beginning of spring and fertility) when most of her festivals were held. On the first of April a festival was held in honor of Venus Verticordia called Veneralia. On the 23rd, Vinalia Urbana was held which was a wine festival belonging to both Venus (goddess of profane wine) and Jupiter. Vinalia Rusticia was held on August 10th. It was Venus' oldest festival and associated with her form as Venus Obsequens. September 26th was the date for the festival of Venus Genetrix, the mother and protector of Rome.
One of the most popular and sought after Roman antiquities for sale are bronze figures of the goddess Venus. Her beauty and erotic connotations surely play a part in this popularity. Images of Venus have been found in countless forms from sculptures to mosaics to shrines and even domestic murals and fresco. Venus, due to her natural beauty and sexual nature, was often depicted nude. Most sculptures of Venus resembled a close similarity to the Aphrodite of Cnidus. However, there are many fine wall paintings from Pompeii that depict Venus in different forms. Venus continued to be a popular subject matter for artists through antiquity and the renaissance even into the 20th century.
Dimensions: Height 80mm (without plinth)
Provenance: Ex. private collection, UK; acquired at UK auction house.