Horatio Greenough (American 1805–1852)Date
57 3/16 x 16 1/8 x 18 3/4 in. (145.3 x 41 x 47.6 cm)Description
As the embodiment of physical perfection, the goddess Venus (Aphrodite to the Greeks) was among the most popular subjects for neoclassical sculptors. The Boston sculptor Horatio Greenough’s version depicts Venus at the moment of her triumph in a contest—a sort of early beauty pageant. The sculpture was commissioned by John Lowell Jr., a member of a prominent Boston family, making it the first sculpture of a nude female figure ever commissioned by an American patron from an American sculptor. Venus reaches up to pull her hair back, ostensibly so she can get a better look at the golden apple she has just won, but more pointedly so that we can better see and enjoy her ideal physical form.
Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.
Gift of the estate of John Lowell, Jr., 1842Object Number