Aphrodite and Venus. Sex and the Shell
This is a small indication of aspects of a new work in progress, Conchinilia Journey III. We have 25K words so far and over 90 photos set to match. Set within our European travels, as you might
imagine, we meet Aphrodite/Venus in many forms and associations.
Pre-dating Homer and Hesiod, Aphrodite, fertile goddess of beauty, walked naked from the Mediterranean at Kythera, Cyprus to be welcomed by the mythic attendants of Spring. Aphrodite was borne to land on a scallop shell, born from foam (aphros in Greek) after Cronos cut off the genitals of Uranus and threw them into the sea. She was the union of seawater and heaven. The shell, its hard exterior holding the soft promise of procreation, the iconic woman’s part – the perfect symbol, evident, live, tactile.
Today species of shell still have the prefix veneri, with umbo reminiscent of female genitalia. Aphrodite spread through the Eastern Mediterranean, becoming Venus in Roman times (at Pompeii for example) and much later dominating the sea port of Venice, seducing trade into her lagoon. Stories would develop of her confident sexuality, control of lovers such as Mars and Vulcan; her children such as Eros ( think Aphrodisiac, think Erotic). There was her beauty venerated – among the Graces and in the Judgment of Paris (where the apple she won for Helen we can align with Eve’s temptation).
Venerated as a cult in Ancient times she (and womanhood itself) would be re-interpreted after the Christian Medieval period – by the Medici in the Golden Age of Florence and throughout Italy. Botticelli’s Birth of Venus has Simonetta Vespucci (from Porto Venere) as model. She died of consumption at 17. Aphrodite appeared in statuary throughout the Hellenic period and in the 19th century by Canova. She is there in white and black modern sculpture by our Italian contemporaries Eleonora Santanni and Serena Gallorini, always naked, forever nubile. And she appears in scores of interpretations throughout our galleries these last 500 years.
You can view more interpretations of Venus on the UK and Ireland and Europe sections of our website.