The Venus of Willendorf or Woman of Willendorf

Found near the town of Willendorf in Austria by an archaeologist named Joseph Szombathy, the approximately 4 inch tall statue of a female figure most commonly known as the Venus of Willendorf or Woman of Willendorf is one of the earliest representations of the human figure ever created. The Venus of Willendorf possesses enlarged breasts, a rounded belly, and wide hips which all accentuate her fertility. Her arms and legs are extremely disproportionate as those are not vital to her fertility and femininity.

Her hands rest atop her fleshy breats as if to frame and bring more focus to them. The main emphasis of this small figurine is definitely the center of her body where her breasts, pubic area and thighs all are joined to her plump belly. The ochre color that covers most of this figurine symbolizes the red color of menstrual blood that represents and is very essential to fertility. It is also interesting to note that the sculptor never made feet for this statue, as though it was not meant to stand upright.

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It is possible that the lack of feet would prevent the statuette from leaving when she was placed in a certain place (Witcombe). Since this statue was made between 30,000 and 25,000 BCE by people who lived in a rough ice-age environment and harsh climate, survival and extinction were serious issues. With such living conditions, and the hunter-gatherer traits of the people within that time frame, it would be quite difficult to gain so much weight (How Art Made the World).

This body shape represents a woman that leads an inactive lifestyle, which most women could not, as they had to perform many tedious tasks. This fact brings up the question whether the Venus of Willendorf actually represents a woman of higher status or significance. Given the prehistoric mindset of this kind, the full body shape and obvious signs of fertility would have been deemed extremely desirable. This statuette was created from a fine porous oolitic limestone that does not belong to the territory where it was found.

Therefore its creators must have carried it from one region to another. Like most other artifacts built during the same era, the small size of the statue that is 4 ? inches tall also suggests that it was an object made with the intention that it would be easily transportable. Another issue in relation to the size of this figurine is that the petite-ness of it allows and results in a certain intimacy with the beholder (Kettlewell). It is also noteworthy to mention that the Venus of Willendorf has been given no facial features.

Her face is rounded and tilted in a way that her chin rests on top of her chest. She has no nose, mouth, eyes, or ears, yet her hair is braided and wrapped around her head in seven concentric circles. Interestingly enough, many years later, the number seven became a sacred or lucky number within various cultures of the world. The fact that she possesses no facial parts may be an indicator that she was meant to represent all women and not one in particular (Witcombe).

Works Cited

  1. “How Art Made the World . Episodes . More Human than Human . Venus of Willendorf | PBS. PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. N. p. , n. d. Web. 11 Oct. 2012. <http://www. pbs. org/howartmadetheworld/episodes/human/venus/>.
  2. Kettlewell, James. “The Venus of Willendorf. ” James Kettlewell: Rethinking Classic Themes in Art HistoryRethinking Classic Themes in Art History. N. p. , n. d. Web. 11 Oct. 2012. <http://www. jameskettlewell. com/willendorf. html>.
  3. Witcombe, Christopher L. C. E.. “Venus of Willendorf. ” Arthistoryresources. net. N. p. , n. d. Web. 11 Oct. 2012. <http://arthistoryresources. net/willendorf/willendorfwomen. html>.

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The Venus of Willendorf or Woman of Willendorf. (2016, Nov 27). Retrieved from