The form of the Marble Statue of Aphrodite is different from that of the Standing Parvati. Aphrodite is rough in texture because she is carved out of marble. She is wearing a sleeveless, ungirt chitin made out of a thin clinging material that hangs all over her body in a “wet look.” Originally, when the statue was still intact, she was seen lifting an edge of her cloak with her right hand and holding an apple with her left hand. Now, at its current state, the Aphrodite’s statue is missing her head, her arms, and her legs. Her head is missing from the neck and up, her right arm is missing from the shoulder blade and down, her left arm is missing from the elbow and down, and her feet (which were originally barefoot) are missing from the ankle and down. Besides that, her left breast is exposed because the cloak is designed to show that the cloak has fallen off of her chest. Aphrodite’s statue also has a flat stomach that is outlined by the clinging material of the cloak and most of her weight lies on her left hip because it is protruding out more. There is a slight V-shape under her navel that highlights her feminine attributes. Her knees are perfectly curved and because of that they look very realistic. Her right leg is slightly bent at the knee to emphasize the standing and walking posture developed by Polykleitos. The front of the statue shows her curves, whereas, the back is more flat. A pattern of ripples block out the shape of her backside and leave her body in a flat form. The color of the statue ranges from a pale creamy color in the front to a more light brown or tan-like color in the back.
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Aside from Aphrodite’s statue, high reliefs and statues of other gods and goddesses are also on display in this gallery. For example, there is a sculpture depicting Eirene, the daughter of Zeus and Themis and a high relief carving of a mythical woman who is being influenced by Diorysos, the god of wine. Aphrodite, as compared to the other statutes, is darker in marble color. The other statues are of a lighter creamier color as compared to her. Besides that, her statue is standing on a gray podium that is about 3 feet tall and a soft light is protruding diagonally on top of her from the high ceiling. This also affects her color and makes her appear a little darker than she already is. The gallery, which is approximately 140 feet long, has a grand barrel vault ceiling and natural light protruding from the skylights. This affects Aphrodite positively because the large gallery widens the space between each artwork. This causes viewers to slow down, walk around, and examine the statues in the open light. Furthermore, right next to Aphrodite’s statue is a bench where observers could sit and listen to an audio description of the history of her statue. A curator would find this to be a perfect setting for her because of the benefits of an open space. The open space of the gallery highlights many of her curves and draws in visitors to stop and observe her statue.
Aphrodite, or Venus under the Romans, was the ancient Greek goddess of love, sexuality, rebirth, and physical beauty. Aphrodite’s worshippers first arrived on the mainland of Greece between 1200 and 900 B.C (Sacks 2005, 33). This goddess was also considered the deity of prostitutes because her temple in Corinth was famous for prostitutes who had sexual intercourse at the temple and donated all their fees to the sacred treasury (Sacks 2005, 33). Through trade and commerce, this feature of the Greek cult became famous within this Roman city. In Greek history, Aphrodite was the wife of the crippled blacksmith god, Hephaistos. She was dissatisfied with her him and decided to have affairs with several other men in order to gratify her needs. One of the men that she fell in love with was Ares, the god of war and bloodlust (Aurora History Boutique 2010). The origin of Aphrodite’s name is unknown but Greeks have explained it to mean “foam-born.” Homer’s epic IIiad and Odyssey described Aphrodite as the daughter of Zeus and Dion, though the more popular view comes from Hesiod’s epic poem the Theogon. This poem describes Aphrodite as the foam that was formed when Cronus, the son of Uranus cut off his father’s genitals and threw them into the ocean (Sacks 2005, 34). Aphrodite inspired lust in humans and creatures alike and this passion was the force that impelled fertilization and reproduction to take place. This was how Aphrodite received the name “Venus Genetrix”. Her attributes included the dove, the pomegranate, and several other objects that represented physical love and reproduction (Aurora History Boutique 2010).
In the Roman tradition, Aphrodite was called Venus, which meant “charm”. She was the Roman goddess who had the power of persuasiveness, love, beauty, and seduction (under the Greek influence) (UNRV History 2010). Venus was also closely associated with gardens and vineyards and was said to protect humans and show favoritism to those that deserved divine favors. Many rulers in the later Republic era, like Julius Caesar, honored Venus as the guardian and benefactor of their nation (UNRV History 2010). In fact, under Caesar’s reign, the popularity of this goddess took its full form. The Julian clan claimed to be direct descendants of the Venus Genetrix through Aeneas (Aphrodite’s son). After that Venus became a symbol for motherhood, marriage, and domestic life for the Roman and the Julian clan alike. Venus then became one of the major gods in the Roman Empire and was held in that position until the influence of Christianity took over. Still, after that era passed, Venus was still immortalized in art and poetry as the cultural symbol of love, beauty, and sexuality (UNRV History 2010). This marble statue of Aphrodite gives full meaning to her symbolization because her beauty, love, fertility, and sexuality are entirely portrayed in this artwork.
Accordingly Standing Parvati, also represents love, devotion, and fertility. Her statue has a smooth texture that emphasizes her feminine curves. On her head, the deity wears a conical hat that is divided into several layers. From the front no hair visible but from the back one can see a small bun resting against her delicate nape. Connected to the back of her crown is a circular object that somehow represents a halo or a lotus. Her eyes are slightly closed and her mouth and nose are partially broken. She has a forehead decoration called a bindi in the middle of her forehead and ear gauges that are making her ears drag. Her mouth is unsmiling and on her neck is a bulky necklace made out of several layers of what appears to be jewelry. She is also wearing a string that encircles her left shoulder and then cuts diagonally through her chest and around her right hip. She is bare breasted and her chest is highly emphasized because it is large and curvy. On her arms are intricate armbands that are designed to represent jewelry and has a set of three bangles on each arm. She even has a ring on each finger of her left hand and a ring on the thumb and index finger of her right hand. Parvati’s right hand, which is bent at the elbow, is making a hand gesture suggesting that she is holding something, perhaps a flower. Meanwhile, her left arm rests lazily against her left hip and is not holding anything.
Parvati’s torso is shaped like an hourglass, with the proportions of her chest and hip being larger than her tiny waist. She is wearing a sarong that has the “wet look” to it, and because of this, the curves of her legs can be clearly seen from under it. The sarong is tied in a knot under her navel and is covered by a large intricately designed belt. There is also a ripple-like pattern that elongates from the middle to the very bottom of her sarong. This pattern helps to show movement, as well as, emphasize the type of sarong she is wearing. Parvati also has a bangle on each ankle and they are the same simple design as the bangles on her arms. She is barefoot and her feet are slightly set apart from one another. From the back, one can see string-like jewelry pieces that are connecting with the necklace that is around her neck. From the back, the sarong hugs her hips and clearly shows off her backside. Overall, she has a smooth, curving back that widen into her hips.
The gallery where Parvati is housed is very dark in color and light. The small room is colored gray and soft light protrudes from the ceiling on top of each artwork. The room is dark because it is in the setting of a temple. This stresses the concept that those who cannot see the light of god are ignorant. Parvati also reflects the colors of the wall and has the same gray color. Other artworks are of the same gray or dark brown color. The size of the room is about 40 feet in length and Parvati is placed on a podium that is about 4 feet in height. Other artworks in the room are about 20 inches or smaller and are from the Chola Dynasty. Other artworks include sculptures of Ganesha, Krishna, Nataraja, and one of Parvati and Shiva together as husband and wife. The space of this room is limited and the artworks are set closely together. Many visitors did not glance into this South Asian gallery because it is so small and so dark. A curator would probably need to expand the room and space out the exhibition pieces so that visitors could have the ability to individually observe or even pay respect to the gods in peace. This private space for each god or goddess would attract more visitors, as well as, give emphasis to each display in its own special way.
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During the Chola Period, bronze statues became very popular due to an increase in demand for the changing religious and social lifestyles in India. Movable statues were needed for rituals that would occur outside the temples in the Hindu religion. The former styles of the old stone sculptures were stationary so artisans turned to the casting of metal as a new way to create their religious art (Asia Society 2007). The bronze statues were made using the “lost wax” method, where initially a wax model was carved and a mold (with a shape cast inside of it) formed around it. The Standing Parvati is a typical metal piece from the Chola Period and was similarly casted. Parvati, meaning “she who is of the mountain” was the consort of Shiva (the destroyer and creator of the cosmos) and the mother of Ganesha. She is usually depicted with heavy jewelry, rosary beads, a bell, a mirror, or a lotus in her hands. The reason why Indian artwork is so complex is because metalwork, intricate jewelry, and other ornamental embellishments were and still are the main characteristics behind the religious significance of the gods (Marilyn Stokstad 2007).
Parvati was identified as the reincarnation of Shiva’s first wife Sati. Recently, she has come to represent love, devotion, and fertility. Parvati is also considered the all powerful female force of the universe who taught Shiva how to learn the arts and dance and the ability to embrace love (iloveindia.com). Parvati is also believed to represent Shakti (the destroyer of demonic forces and restoring balance) and Durga (the goddess who preserves moral order and righteousness in creation). Parvati’s style mirrors that of the Yakshis found in Buddhist art. Similar to Yakshis, Parvati stands in a triple bend pose called the tribhanga (MET 2010). Also, since ritual dances were a significant part of Hindu ceremonies, the style of Parvati’s posture was derived from that of the dance styles performed at the ceremonies (Steven Kossak 1994). In the Chola period, statues of deities like Parvati participated in temple processions and festivals where they were washed with oils, covered with silk garlands, and draped in jewels (Asia Society 2007).
Parvati’s style and figure in Standing Parvati is depicted differently from that of other sculptures or paintings. For example, after the Muslims took over, Parvati’s bare breasts were covered and she became more modest. Also in recent artwork, she is depicted with an emphasis on her role as a mother to Ganesha and consort to Shiva. In Standing Parvati she is depicted with an emphasis on her femininity. This may take away from her depiction of a fertile figure because in this artwork she looks more gratis and more youthful.
Aphrodite and Parvati are two deities from two different time periods and civilization that are symbolized for their love, femininity, and fertility. Their difference in time period and civilization do produce different views but there are some major similarities between these two goddesses. Deities were formed when people began to lean more towards religion and made it the central concept of their lives. People presented their deities in the best way possible to emphasize on their greatness and importance in society. The idealistic use of femininity through nudity also placed a sense of divinity upon these sculptures. Through this, people were able to worship their gods and goddesses and live their day to day lives.
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