Who is Aphrodite? What is she?

This interview was conducted on 11 July 2016 by Kim L. E. Pratt for part of the Dissertation section of her MA in Classical Studies entitled:- Who is Aphrodite? What is she?: An art historical study of the goddess of love and beauty through time and the senses.
This dissertation is an art historical study on the goddess Aphrodite in which I aim to show that the way in which the goddess is perceived is contextually dependent – both culturally and personally. In order to do this I look at three different images in three different media and three different time periods. I approach the subject from a sensory perspective in order to fully understand the experience of viewing from the perspective of the artist, model (if appropriate) and subsequent viewers. I also consider the images through the stone/flesh dichotomy of Ovid’s Pygmalion. In Chapter One, I look at the statue of Aphrodite of Knidos created by Praxiteles in c.350 BCE. I consider the process of her creation from the use of Praxiteles’ lover, the courtesan, Phryne as his model and the carving of the statue in quarry and workshop to the sensory experience of cult worship and the statue’s reception in antiquity until it’s demise in the fifth-century CE. Chapters Two and Three concentrate on the reception of the goddess, under her Roman name of Venus, in the later Christian world of the Italian Renaissance (Chapter Two) and the more secular world of today (Chapter Three). For the Renaissance I look at the medium of painting through Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and in Chapter Three I go on to consider how this painting became the basis of her modern day image. I examine how the perception of the goddess changed over the course of the twenty- and twenty-first centuries with the rise of the suffragette movement and feminism and, through the medium of photography, I consider how she is viewed today by the female artist, Grace Vane Percy, by looking at two
images from her book, Venus.

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