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Work Female head, Modeled from the Aphrodite of Cnidus

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Female head of the "Aphrodite of Cnidus" type, called
"The Kaufmann Head"

© 2000 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Marie-Bénédicte Astier

Among the many copies inspired by the Aphrodite of Cnidus, this head from the former Kaufmann Collection is a Hellenistic-era creation. It is distinguished by its grace and delicacy. The sculptor freely adapted Praxiteles' masterpiece of the mid-fourth century BC, without altering either its religious nobility or its sensuality. The goddess performs her ablutions completely naked, an audacious and novel treatment of the subject.

The "Kaufmann Head"

This head of Aphrodite was discovered at Tralles in Asia Minor circa 1885. It takes its current name from the Kaufmann Collection, where it was preserved until it was purchased by the Louvre in 1951. A fragment from the same statue, depicting the pelvis and upper thighs, is in the collections of the Staatliche Museen in Berlin. The "Kaufmann Head" is one of a great many copies that were made of the Aphrodite of Cnidus in the Hellenistic and Imperial periods. The slight tilt to the left, the chignon, and the treatment of the hair in waves divided equally on either side of a central part are fairly similar to other Roman heads in the vicinity of this piece. The head is distinguished by its grace and gentleness, and there are no trepan lines in the working of the hair - these clues allow us to date this work to the Hellenistic period.

An original creation based on the Aphrodite of Cnidus by Praxiteles

More than a simple copy, this marble head from the Kaufmann Collection offers us an original creation from the second century BC. The sculptor has taken several liberties with the famous statue created by Praxiteles, an Athenian sculptor of the mid-fourth century BC, without altering either the goddess's religious nobility or her sensuality. He or she has accented the length of the neck and noticeably lengthened the face's delicate oval. The sculptor has also changed the arrangement of the ribbons holding the hair: here the two ribbons are parallel, while on other copies they diverge. Aphrodite thus appears more tentative and fragile, but both the memory of the subject and the style of Praxiteles's creation remain, particularly in the sfumato effect emanating from the face.

An Aphrodite in her bath

In the fourth century BC, the citizens of Cnidus, a small city-state on the southern coast of Asia Minor, placed the Aphrodite of Praxiteles in the heart of the temple dedicated to her. Viewers were struck by the boldness of the subject - the first large-scale Greek statue to depict the female nude - as well as the quality of its execution. The statue depicts the goddess surprised in her bath by an intruder, at a moment when she is completely naked, performing her ritual ablutions. The image, which has a highly religious meaning, was frequently copied thereafter, perhaps more from a decorative point of view than a religious one.


M. Hamiaux, Les sculptures grecques, II, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1998, p. 57-58, n 63
R. Ozgan (R.), Die griechischen und römischen Skulpturen aus Tralles, Asia Minor, Studien, 15, 1995, p. 54-57, n TR 21, pl. 11
A. Pasquier, La Vénus de Milo et les Aphrodites du Louvre, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1985, p. 59
B. Vierneisel-Schlörb (B.), Glyptothek München, Katalog der Skulpturen. Band II. Klassische Skulpturen des 5. und 4. Jahrhunderts v. Chr., Munich, 1979, pp. 331-333
Vingt ans d'acquisitions au musée du Louvre, 1947-1967, musée de l'Orangerie, 1967-1968, Paris, Editions dela Réunion des musées nationaux, p. 43, n 143
J. Charbonneaux, "L'Aphrodite de Cnidus de la collection Kaufmann", Revue des Arts, 1951, pp. 174-176
C. Blinkenberg, Knidia. Beïtrage zur Kenntnis der praxitelischen Aphrodite, Copenhague, 1933, p. 173-176, n IV, fig. 21, 27, 29
G. E. Rizzo (G. E.), Prassitele, Rome, Milan, 1932, pp. 54-55, pl. 85-86

Technical description

  • Female head of the "Aphrodite of Cnidus" type, called
    "The Kaufmann Head"

    C. 150 BC

    Provenance: Tralles (in present-day Turkey)

  • Marble from Asia Minor?

    H. 35 cm

  • Former Kaufmann collection
    Purchased in 1951 (the body of the statue is in Berlin) , 1951

    N° d'entrée MND 2027 (n° usuel Ma 3518)

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Athena gallery (also called the Melpomene gallery)
    Room 344

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