Venus [Aphrodite]. Sanguine stipple engraving.
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The statue is known as the Venus de' Medici. A figure of Cupid is riding on a dolphin at her feet. Cupid and the dolphin are both tiny by comparison, to give the impression of a giant goddess stepping out of the sea. The statue is first recorded in the Villa Medici in Rome in 1638. It is said to have excited "lewd behaviour", which was not approved of by Pope Innocent XI (Pope 1676-1689), who had an ascetic character and was keen to reform lax morals. The Pope was therefore only too pleased to assent to the removal of the statue from Rome to the Medici art gallery in Florence, the Uffizi, where it occupied the most prominent room, the Tribuna. Placed in this prominent position, it acquired a mystique comparable to that of the "Mona Lisa" in later times. Poets, artists, connoisseurs, and followers of fashion examined it, wrote about it, sketched it, and talked about it from every possible angle. Lord Byron devoted five stanzas of his poem 'Childe Harold' to a description of it, and many people praised the anatomy of Venus as being perfect in specific details. As a result of this conventional approval, it was seized by the French in 1803, and Napoleon made a special visit to the museum in Paris (the Louvre) to see his booty. After the battle of Waterloo in 1815, it was returned to the Tribuna of the Uffizi, where it is kept today. This print may have been made to mark the statue's return to Florence on 27 December 1815 (information from Haskell and Penny, loc. cit.)
La Venere detta dei Medici.
[Italy] : [publisher not identified], [1815?]
F. Haskell and N. Penny, Taste and the antique. The lure of classical sculpture 1500-1900, New Haven and London 1981, pp. 325-328, no. 88
Wellcome Library no. 11273i