Paleolithic Venus of Willendorf statuette traced to Northern Italy

Originally published at: Paleolithic Venus of Willendorf statuette traced to Northern Italy | Boing Boing

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For those (like me) who always want “a banana for scale”. That is, this was transported from Italy, how much pocket space did it command?:

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Trade routes existed way back then for valued items? Gifting between peoples? Unless the stone was moved then carved elsewhere.

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Linky no worky?

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I also wonder how long it was “in use” after being created. It’s tempting to think of objects like this as being made then ending up immediately as some sort of grave good, but was it handed down generation after generation, each not necessarily moving all that much?

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Linky fixty. Thanks!

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I like her knees.

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The paint, along with “Souvenir of Italy” has worn off.

That was what I wondered. If oolitic limestone is particularly good for carving, the stone may have been traded in its raw form, but it’s more likely that the figurine was carved where the stone was found. Trade routes are a possibility, but it’s also possible that, as the article (and @Shuck) speculate, the Venus was passed from hand to hand by hunter-gatherers, possibly over generations, to where it was found.

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Neither link worked for me.

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I had the same problem, but I reloaded the page just a coupla minutes ago, and both links worked.

ETA Bonus:
I tell friends my figure has become more Venus of Willendorfesque since the plague began :wink:

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This has always been such an intriguing piece because of how much it implies about the otherwise unknown culture that created it. They clearly had skilled artisans, but they also were prosperous enough that their artisans were familiar with what a very well-fed person looked like. If they could render something like this in stone then what did they do with wood or clay?

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Damit. That Art theft problem is older than wie thought.

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This seems right. The oolitic limestone is weird stuff. It may be good to carve, but it is not homogeneous, and you might hit a bad bit at any time. But if you finish your carving, and it is good (and this is, even if she may not be ‘beach ready’ to modern eyes, shame on them), then it is likely to last and be handed on. So, the raw stone may move from a quarry to a local carver, but the finished product may move for miles and generations.

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Plot twist: ancient astronauts are real and the Venus of Willensdorf is a realistic likeness.

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Nonsense, lots of folks out there are into the BBW (Big Beautiful Willenforfian) look.

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Working with stone like that certainly takes great skill. It is wonderful (in all senses of the word) that there were such artists so unfathomably long ago.

Here are three of my favorite Ancient Egyptian pieces made from difficult stone:

Limestone breccia bird Late Predynastic-Early 1st Dynasty ca 3100 BCE
Theriomorphic vessel in the shape of a bird - made of limestone breccia, Late Predynastic - early 1st Dynasty c. 3100 BCE. British Museum (BM35306). Photograph by Jon Bodsworth, The Egypt Archive

The balance - both physical (evinced by the lugs for a hanger or handle/s) and colorwise - of this piece is exquisite. My BF, an art major, immediately pointed out the color and realistic form of the head; I mentioned the matching patch on the tail, and how the gold tummy balances and contrasts with all the wild stuff happening on top.


met-egyptian-art

Dish, ca. 2750–2649 B.C.E. , Metropolitan Museum of Art: Egyptian Art

Rogers Fund, 1912
Size: H. 5.9 cm (2 5/16 in.); Diam. 41 cm (16 1/8 in.)
Medium: breccia
Early Dynastic Period – Old Kingdom
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/551047


Conglomerate statue of Khaemwaset - 19th Dynasty, ca 1260 BCE. He is depicted wearing a short wig and kilt and standing with left foot advanced and holding two standards: the right (now damaged) was probably surmounted by a representation of the Osirian triad and is inscribed with the prenomen and epithets of Ramses II; the left is surmounted by the fetish of Abydos and inscribed with the nomen and epithets of Ramses II. The inscription around the base contains a prayer to Atum and that around the feet of the figure describes the setting up of this monument in Ta-Wer [‘The Great Land’], probably at Abydos. There are two vertical registers of hieroglyphs on the dorsal pillar, continued on both the right and left sides, which contain a prayer to Osiris.
British Museum

The above image will V muchly embiggen, so you can really see the stone’s details. It’s like puddingstone in places - whole pebbles stuck in (and fallen out of) the matrix!

Khaemwaset was a son of Ramses II, and is considered one of the earliest Egyptologists and historical restoration experts.

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I don’t want none, unless you got buns, hun.

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You Gotta Believe - Goddesses vs Moses - by Nina Paley - YouTube Obligatory clip of singing and dancing goddess statues, courtesy of Nina Paley.

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Ms Paley’s a Goddess, too!

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Those are fun, playful pieces. They are “I’m gonna carve the shape I have planned into this rock, and whatever we find when I get to that shape is going to be the colour it is. That’ll be fun”. I can dig that.

The Willendorf statuette is in a different league IMHO. She has arms (rather skinny ones, but they are there). She is representative, but a distorted representation where the plumpness is emphasised. She has a fancy, braided hairdo. Oh, and she has no face.

NO FACE? That’s the oldest and first bit of art. Children scribble, then make ‘fan patterns’, then circles with radiating lines, and then they add a couple of dots and a line and make a face, and see the delight when they recognise what they have done. Here, the sculptor took out the face, the very first bit of representational art, and it is a master-stroke. If she had a face, she would be just a fat dolly. If she had a missing face, that would be horrible. But she has an implied face somewhere under that hairdo, and she is mysterious.

I feel this is not a lone artist saying “Hey, let’s hide her face, and make her spooky”. Possible, but they would have to be scary talented to get there in one hop. Maybe this is the last of a series of statuettes, where each artist de-emphasized the face and extended the hairdo a bit, because the statue seemed to lose its ‘power’ when the face went in.

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