Venus of Willendorf, 24,000 B.C.– 22,000 B.C.

Venus of Willendorf, 24,000 B.C.– 22,000 B.C., but discovered in 1908. 11.5 cm high, Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna

The Venus of Willendorf, made from oolitic limestone, is one of the oldest known works of art in the world. It is from the area of Willendorf in lower Austria and was discovered by a man named Josef Szombathy who was an archeologist. There have since been discovered other statuettes from this site and they are called the "Venus figures."

Her body type is an idealization of the fertile woman that was worshiped then as the life-giver. Her breasts and even genitals are the prominent features while her face is completely blank, her legs have no feet and even her arms are tiny and very disproportional to her body. These elements give rise to many questions that have not been answered and probably never will be. Was this a deity or a more commonplace figurine? What role did women play in societies or family-like units during that time?

For me the Venus of Willendorf is more a beautiful and stunning example of how far-reaching art is than something I seek to understand. It also serves to remind me how much ideas of ideal female beauty can change and are contingent upon society and culture. Were this woman alive now in Austria she would probably never be considered a goddess of any kind and the artist would to told off for giving encouragement to obesity and health risks.

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