Veiled Truth by Antonio Corrodini, 1752
Venus is everywhere… she truly is. Venus, the embodiment of love and beauty in a female form, is a presentation that most of us are familiar with. From Botticelli’s Birth of Venus painting to the equally well known Venus de Milo sculpture, we are familiar with her form in one shape or another. When we take a closer look at her appearances throughout art and culture in general, we are able to see how alive and well her truth is. Even today, beyond the classical embodiment that she seems to prevail within, Venus, in all of her varied presentations, is a goddess that connects our earthly habitation with the spiritual one. This is perhaps why she is closely tied with the dove, which is a symbol that allows us to see how we can set the spirit free.
The sculpture “Veiled Truth” by Italian sculptor Antonio Corrodini clearly depicts a female body that is of Venus like proportions. While the veil is intended to be a sign of modesty, the style of how the veil is draped around the female body is how Corrodini communicates the “truth” of the female body in this sculpture. It’s a particularly striking work of art because of how it weaves together the ideas of modesty with the presentation of the female body, which has an undeniable correlation to the goddess Venus and her presentation. Corrodini provokes the viewer to consider is modesty real? If the truth is in nature (of the body), then perhaps modesty is a social fabric, just like the veil that is wrapped around the body. This message in a sculpture is one depiction of how Venus appears again and again throughout our artistic and cultural psyche. Another unique depiction of Venus is a painting by the French painter, Louis Jean Francois Lagrenée from 1770, which is housed at the Getty Museum today. This painting, entitled “The Allegory of Peace,” depicts Mars, the god of war in bed with Venus, the goddess of love, and how their union creates “peace.”
Allegory of Peace by Louis Jean Francois Lagrenée, 1770
Mars, the Roman god of war lovingly overlooks Venus, the Roman goddess of love as depicted in the “Allegory of Peace” by Louis Jean Francois Lagrenée, 1770; The Getty Museum.
Venus is not only a beautiful woman, Venus embodies a state of mind and being. She embodies how the human existence can embody love as a state of being. This is well contrasted with the visual of her lover, Mars, as depicted in the painting the “Allegory of Peace,” which brings together the two states of love and war (Mars & Venus) into a mutual state of peace. Love and light ultimately prevails over the state of war. The painting sends a message: Love ameliorates all.
Beyond the artistic depictions of Venus that are well established across our collective cultural psyche, there are more subtle embodiments of her that are less easy to spot. One of my favorite examples of this is in The Little Mermaid. When Ariel transforms from her mermaid state to be joined with Eric in the end of the film, she steps out of the water in a sparkling lavender dress (being birthed as a human from the water), she is exiting the water fully formed as a human being, exactly as her birth story is described in mythology.
Something else that is particularly intriguing about this depiction of Venus is its appearance in a Disney film… The Little Mermaid is a combination of Venus and a savior character. Princess Ariel literally saves Prince Eric from drowning in a storm and when dropping him off on the shore has an angelic presentation being surrounded in light, manifesting a spiritual character and is ‘birthed’ from water like the Venus story describes. This underpins the Venus and Mars narrative well, as the embodiment of love with Venus brings a kind of spiritual transcendence.
It is unique to note that in the mermaid story, it is a ‘spiritually transcendent’ experience to become mortal versus becoming a ‘magical creature’ such as a mermaid. The transformation into being a mortal connects back to this idea of Venus being the human embodiment of love. Humanity as a collective can love one another more and we don’t discuss that enough and more broadly as a society. I have never heard this topic discussed in the news. Perhaps because it is easier to divide people than to unite them. I still believe we can all practice love as a spiritual practice and embody it.
Popular culture undoubtedly presents the Venus narrative in many different forms. Another noteworthy and perhaps less quickly identified cultural depiction of Venus is Jayne Mansfield. In the 2000 film, Dr. T & the Women, Richard Gere, plays a sought after Dallas based gynecologist. In the film, identifies Jayne Mansfield as being a “noteworthy woman” of Texas to have a highway named after when patients in his office ask for his input. The idea is that Gere’s character is elevating the Venus like attributes of Jayne Mansfield. Mansfield also posed alongside Venus sculptures multiple times, so she was well aware of the comparison. It’s in the cultural mythology of “dumb blonde,” do you not see that she was in fact much more conscientious and aware of engineering her persona than people understood at the time. People who knew Mansfield well described her as highly intelligent. She was fluent in multiple languages and played the violin as well. While Mansfield may be a more modern representation of Venus, she is certainly not where Venus in culture ends. Venus will always have a presence, in some kind of “veiled modesty” or in all her glory.