Beauty is, in some ways, boring. Even if its concept changes throughout the ages, nevertheless a beautiful object must always follow certain rules. … Ugliness is unpredictable and offers an infinite range of possibilities. Beauty is finite. Ugliness is infinite, like God.
Venus of Willendorf, c. 24,000-22,000 BC, limestone, 4 3/8″ (11.1 cm) high
(Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna)
Venus of Willendorf is an icon of prehistoric art. She was found by the archeologist Josef Szombathy near the town Willendorf in Austria in 1908.
The sculpture shows a woman with a large stomach that overhangs but does not hide her pubic area. A roll of fat extends around her middle, joining with large but flat buttocks. Her thighs are also large and pressed together down on the knees. Her forearms are, however, thin and holding the upper part of her large and full breasts. The genital area is deliberately emphasized with the vulva well detailed. At the time of its discovery, the statuette showed traces of red ocher pigment, which has been thought to symbolize, or serve as a surrogate of, the menstrual blood. This with the breasts and the rounded stomach accentuate the notion of procreativity and nurture.
To the modern eye, the Venus of Willendorf is an icon of obesity. But in the hunter–gatherer society where the statuett was made, too low BMI – with consequent infertility – was probably a widespread problem. Venus, therefore, might have functioned as an unattainable model. A beauty. An encouragement to put on weight.
Copyright© Iiu Susiraja 2011-2013
sketcher, reader, writer