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The Venus Willendorf and Laussel

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During the Upper Paleolithic era artists created a wide range of small sculptures. These sculptures were made from various materials, including ivory, bone, clay, and even stone. They represented humans, as well as animals; they even combined them at times. Most of the sculptures from this time show a high level of skill. From this time, there were two very influential sculptures, The Venus of Willendorf and the Venus of Laussel. This paper will discuss both sculptures, in detail, as well as, compare and contrast them.

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The Venus of Willendorf, also known as the Woman of Willendorf, stands 11 cm. high and is thought to have been carved from 22,000 to 21,000 B. C. It was discovered in 1908 by Josef Szombathy at a Paleolithic site near Willendorf, a village in Lower Austria near the city of Krems. It is carved from an oolitic limestone that is not local to the area, and it is also tinted with red ochre. Although the figure appears to be large in size, it can actually fit in the palm of one’s hand.

The way that the sculpture is carved shows that it was more than likely meant to be viewed from the front.

The Venus of Willendorf is not the only figurine that was nicknamed “Venus”. There are a number of figurines from that time that were given the same name. It is not know who, if anyone, that they were dubbed after. It wasn’t until later that Venus was named as the Roman goddess of beauty. Even to date, there is no information as to what the Venus actually meant. We can only speculate that she was carved to represent reproduction and nursing. There was a huge fascination in that Era of fertility, mainly because it was their method of survival.

This is really the only information that we have to indicate that is the reason for the over exaggeration of the breasts and hips. The Venus of Willendorf was considered a sculpture in the round. This was one of the most common ways to sculpt at that time. This means that the sculpture was completely detached and stood alone from the original material it was sculpted from. It can be viewed from all sides; the artist puts great detail into every angle of the sculpture. The Venus of Willendorf shows over exaggerated breasts, hips and stomach.

There is no concentration on the arm and leg area. Nor is there a face, it is covered with “braids” of some sort. There are many different ideas on what the “braids” actually are. They wrap completely around the head. Many claim that they represent a woven or even crocheted hat. There is also the belief that the figure was meant to represent the earth mother, and that is why her face cannot be seen. They even say that it could be a basket covering her face. No matter what was actually covering her face, it is obvious that the focus was on her body and what it was meant to represent.

There is also red ochre used in the sculpture. Some say that it is a common material used in sculptures of that time. Others claim that it is meant to represent blood from the mother giving birth. It is not known whether this is a sculpture of a woman after she has given birth, or while she is pregnant. It is obvious that the artist exaggerated all the “motherly” body parts. Her breasts are large as if full of milk, her stomach is full from carrying a child or just giving birth. There is an obvious celebration and love for the women of the time and what they provided for the people.

During the same time period was another very influential sculpture. The Venus of Laussel was the same as the Willendorf in a few ways; but equally as different. The figure was rediscovered in 1911 by J. G. Lalanne, a physician. It was carved into a small block that had fallen into a rock shelter on the territory of the commune of Marquay, in the Dordogne department of southwestern France. The Venus of Laussel stands approximately 1. 5 feet in height. It is a limestone sculpture of a nude female figure, painted in red ochre.

Unlike, the Willendorf, the Laussel is a sculpture in relief instead of in the round. It is carved in a piece of limestone. The sculpture may only be viewed from the front; where the Willendorf could be viewed from all angles. Sculptures in relief are typically more detailed than those in the round. This is because some of the original material remains and forms the background plane. Like the Willendorf, Laussel also was sculpted to have over exaggerated breasts, with large breasts and vulva. Unlike the Willendorf, the Laussel has more detail in the rest of the body.

There is still no face, but there is focus on the arms and legs as well; where with the Willendorf, they weren’t even carved into the figure at all. The Laussel is shown holding a wisent horn, or possibly a cornucopia, in one hand, which has 13 notches. It is believed that the notches are carved to indicate the number of nights between the first crescent and full moon, signifying a recognized relationship between a single menstrual and lunar cycle. It was painted with red ochre, like Willendorf, that was also thought to represent the blood from child birth.

She also has her hand placed on her stomach (or womb). There is a “Y” on her thigh and her faceless head is turned toward the horn. I was drawn to this time period as well as these two sculptures. As I researched both sculptures I was fascinated by how much respect the people of that time had for their women. Not only for what they could do for them, but also for what they looked like. They didn’t see the weight and size as a grotesque thing; but more as a thing of beauty. In this day in time, we focus on the outside more than the person.

We think that bringing life into the world is a beautiful thing; but that the actual pregnancy and aftermath as something that is unattractive. The people of that time thought that every aspect of bringing life into this world was amazing. They weren’t expected to remain a certain size or become perfect, as if they were never pregnant, right after giving birth. Their size and what they went through was totally loved and embraced. I can definitely relate in the difference in how we are seen today. I gained 10 pounds over the “acceptable” weight of pregnancy.

I also was unable to lose the weight as quickly as most. It is a battle these days to try to get back to where we were before. There is so much focus on our looks that we lose sight of what is important; something that the people from the Paleolithic time embraced and appreciated. I believe the people of the Paleolithic era not only were able to show their admiration for the outer beauty of the natural woman but were also able to embrace their cultures meaning of life through the artistry of the Venus.

Cite this The Venus Willendorf and Laussel

The Venus Willendorf and Laussel. (2017, Mar 15). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-venus-willendorf-and-laussel/

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