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History

The Queen of the Capitoline Museums: the Esquiline Venus

2nd Mar 2015

When she was recovered from the underground Lamian Gardens in the Esquiline neighborhood in 1874, she was already missing both upper limbs. Yet, nothing stopped the Venere Esquilina (Esquiline Venus) from becoming one of the most visited women along the many tours of Rome.

She might be Venus, she might not be. She might be the goddess of beauty and love, surprised in the intimate moment of binding her curls with a strip of fabric before an ablution, as suggested by the remains of the small fingers of her left hand gently placed on the back of her head.

She might be Cleopatra, she might not be. She wears sandals – a telling detail, since Venus is always represented barefoot – and a cobra slithers slowly next to her, wrapping itself around the vase on which a towel rests. The snake is just another royal symbol suggesting that the woman might indeed be the exceptionally famous Egyptian Queen, who seduced the fearless Cesare and the courageous Antonio, only to perish from the poison of another reptile.

Two schools of thought have been battling around her identity, one suggesting that she is actually a representation of the Queen of Egypt and the other defending the idea that it cannot be her, since nudity was against the customs of Egyptian decorum – the Queen would have never let anyone see her naked, let alone carve her in an ever-lasting marble block.

What we know of her is that she dates back to the first century BC and she now lives in the Capitoline Museums in Rome. She is portrayed gazing down, probably admiring herself in the mirror of water she is about to dive into. Her posture and action are meant to remind of Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Cnidus – better known as the Venus Pudica (modest Venus). Praxiteles’ work was the first example of life-size representation of female nudity in sculpture and strikes the viewer for its incredible beauty, which can be appreciated and contemplated from every angle. Similarly, the Venere Esquilina captures the eye and invites the visitor to circle around her and discover all of her secrets.

Her high pelvis and small breasts make for the perfectly desirable and compact body. It was in fact calculated that her proportions follow a simple – yet astonishing in the results – mathematical scale. Despite the exposed curves of her body, she surprises for the innocence of her look and the purity that she exhibits. The woman is framed with the perfect kind of young beauty that appears unaware of the harshness of the real world.

Getting to be in her presence is very easy and only requires a visit to the Capitoline Museums, which are located right in the center of the Eternal City. The Capitoline Hill hosts the art galleries and also the Roman political landmark of Piazza del Campidoglio. With Through Eternity Tours you can take a magnificent Tour of the Capitoline Museums where the Venere and all of her relatives can be admired – including the ancient statue of Neptune, the original equestrian statue of Marco Aurelio, and the legendary statue of the Capitoline She-Wolf, which was believed to have saved the lives of young Romulus and Remo, who then founded the city.

You can complement your relaxing Italian vacation with a Rome tour – for example, Through Eternity offers expert and fluent English-speaking tour guides, who will show you everything you need to know about the city’s formidable history and unbelievable art. Along with the sculptures, the gallery adjacent to the Capitoline Museums showcases some of the main works of great Italian artists, including two magnificent paintings by Caravaggio.

There is no way of knowing who the woman is, but one thing is for certain – she is beautiful and a sight not to miss.

~ by Francesca Mirabile ~