Venus of Willendorf, c. 28,000 - 25,000 BCE, limestone, 4⅓” high, Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna, Photo by Matthias Kabel via Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License.

The Venus of Willendorf: It Doesn’t Get Any Older Than This

The Venus of Willendorf is seriously old; someone carved her from limestone around 28,000 BCE.  That’s 30,000 years ago!  Needless to say, it’s very difficult to know why this Paleolithic artifact exists.  Because we know so little about the circumstances of her production and the culture form which she derives, we are forced to rely simply upon our powers of observations if we want to know more about her, and that is actually a very good thing.  When thinking about art, it’s always best to look first and ask questions later.

Artists from the Paleolithic era knew how to make sculptures of animals that were realistic (or naturalistic), but for some reason they chose to exaggerate certain forms when carving women.  In this sculpture, the woman’s breasts, stomach, and thighs are quite large.  Given this, we can hypothesize that this small artifact is a charm for fertility or childbirth.  It’s also possible she represents the concept of fertility itself.

For a thoughtful and illuminating analysis of the sculpture by James K. Kettlewell, click here.


One Comment

  1. I think out of all the pieces of art and artifacts I learned about in college art history classes – this is the one I reference and or think about most often.It is truly amazing that she is so timeless.Love her.

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