Venus is the personification of adult, sexual love, she is flighty, passionate impulsive even jealous. There is barely an agreed-upon series of consistent character traits for her, almost to the point where it seems like she is separate characters in different myths. This is actually quite an apt characterisation given how complex and multifaceted Venus is and for that matter, love as well.
Botticelli’s, The Birth of Venus
THE BIRTH OF VENUS
Venus herself is an ancient Latin goddess, early on she was more associated with growth and the cultivation of fields and gardens. She was only brought to Rome at a later date where she adopted many of the traits and most of the mythology of Aphrodite. How this happened is still unknown to this day. The original was Venus celebrated through many Latin provinces, her origins have been mostly lost to history, however, we know very well how Aphrodite who she is often interchanged with came to be.
One of the widely accepted myths of Aphrodite’s and Venus’s birth is according to Hesiod in his ‘Theogony’. The story goes that Aphrodite emerged naked from seafoam near the shore of the Greek island Kythera. She was born as a fully grown adult after the Greek god Oranus (Roman Uranus) was brutally castrated by his son, the Titan Cronus (Roman, Saturn). His castrated testicles were then thrown into the sea and the blood from the injury formed the Giants, the Furies and the Meliae (nymphs). His testicles were said to have drifted on the ocean for some time during which seafoam formed around them and after a time Aphrodite arose from the foam as the epitome of womanhood and everyone admired her for her beauty. It is notable that she was never a child as she represents romance, sexuality, lust, fertility and femininity. This is why she is often accompanied by a gaggle of Cupids as they provide a juxtaposition of child-like innocence to her more adult connotations.
You might be wondering why they chose the minor goddess Venus to merge with Aphrodite, Aphrodite’s own link to the planet Venus is actually very old, she is heavily associated with and believed to be the Hellenistic Greek version of an even older goddess, Astarte. Astarte is a Phonecian goddess of beauty, fertility, sex and the planet Venus and even shares a similar place where her worship was popular, that being on Kythera. Ishtar is a Mesopotamian goddess and again is considered to be an even older incarnation of both.
If you look closely at the Winged Fantasy by Lladró, you can actually begin to notice details from the myths of Astarte and Ishtar. This gives the piece a certain richness and shows the amount of time and research gone into this creating mythical goddess. Read more about the Winged Fantasy.
VENUS AS A SYMBOL
Venus/Aphrodite is an iconic fixture of Valentine’s Day cards and gifts. With a greater acceptance of free love and the many waves of women’s liberation in the last 50 years, her popularity has skyrocketed. We often see her as depicted in the Botticelli painting adorning many pop art pieces, as tattoos or even reproduced for a modern aesthetic. Though she is heralded for her beauty and often considered shallow because of it, however, there is more to her character than meets the eye. Today, her image and story resonate with us, particularly amongst women as she defends and champions love unreservedly, fiercely and unapologetically.
She demonstrated her fierce passion for what she cares about during the Trojan War which she instigated after Eris the goddess of discord pit Hera, Athena and Aphrodite against each other by deeming whoever the Trojan prince, Paris found the most beautiful would win a golden apple. Hera offered power, Athena wisdom and fame and Aphrodite offered him Helen of Troy the most beautiful woman in the world who happened to be unhappily married to the Greek king, Agamemnon. Paris chose Aphrodite and unknowingly kicked off the Trojan War by taking another man’s wife. During the war, Aphrodite took responsibility and defended her actions by siding with the Trojans against Agamemnon, Hera and Athena instead of simply fleeing. In this myth, she takes an active role, rescuing Paris from the enemy Menelaus and even charging into battle to protect her Trojan son Aeneas and Paris even when she is not a warrior, this results in her being severely injured. She also showed resourcefulness in persuading Ares, the god of war to support Troy and continuing to protect her son and the love of Paris and Helen. Even after her injury, she continues to fight, going so far as to rescue Ares after he is injured on the battlefield.
In many ways, she is emblematic of female empowerment and pride in being unapologetically feminine, sexual, passionate, fierce and brave. She represents the multifaceted sides of femininity without shame or reserve.
LLADRÓ’S GONDOLA OF LOVE
Lladró’s Gondola of Love Limited Edition
The Gondola of Love features Venus seated under an elegant canopy in a glossy gondola. she is surrounded by Lladró’s signature handcrafted flowers in a matt finish. At the bow of the boat sits an adorable cherub casually aiming his bow likely at some unknowing imaginary couple. The boat is steered by a second cherub standing proudly at the stern as Venus wistfully stares into the distance.
It is common for Venus to be depicted as being accompanied by either lovable cherubs or handmaidens. This usually serves to highlight the different forms of love that the Ancient Greeks and Romans believed in, such as Agape (innocence, selfless love), Eros (romantic love) and Pragma (mature, enduring love). Venus usually represents the mature, erotic and adult sides of love, that being Eros and Pragma. The cherubs (or Cupids), usually being a manifestation of the innocent love that a child might feel or what one might express for friends and family.
Love has many facets, it can be fierce, passionate, impulsive even painful but it can also nurturing, selfless and rejuvenating. It all depends on how you approach it. Much like Venus, some view her as shallow and flighty, while others see the multifaceted character underneath and like love, she has hidden depths, proving herself time and time again that she is not restricted nor boxed in by her role as the goddess of love and beauty.