One of Rome’s most famous antiquities, rediscovered there in the 1630s, was the "Medici Venus", named after its later owners. The marble figure is a second-century copy of a bronze original dating from the first century BC. It was taken from Rome to Florence in 1677 and set up in the Tribuna, where it sensuously embodied the outstanding quality of the Medici collections. In 1695, Johann Adam Andreas I von Liechtenstein had Massimiliano Soldani Benzi cast a bronze copy the size of the original. It was intended as a companion piece to the Dancing Faun, another copy of an Antique piece, and was to be displayed in his City Palace new gallery. According to legend, Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, sprang from the foam of the sea. The dolphin, a symbol of the sea, is thus one of her attributes. Baroque artists modelled representations of the nude body on the Medici Venus. “To represent flesh as real flesh” meant animating sculptures. Soldani Benzi worked on his Venus from 1699 to 1702 and paid particular attention to chasing and smoothing its surface so as to lend the body the softness typical of human skin. She was to be “delicata, e morbida come se fusse carne”, and this effect was probably better realized in bronze than in stone. The surface sheen enhances the sculpture’s sensual appearance. All this effort to produce painterly qualities is reminiscent of the old competition between the art forms. Here sculpture tries to compete with painting’s particular qualities. The Medici Venus’s harmonious proportions and idealized form embody the aesthetic ideal of Classical Antiquity. They are further distinguished by a subtle balance of mass in the pose, clear lines and concentration on a frontal view.
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Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi
Medici Venus, c. 1699/1702
bronze, with red-brown lacquer patina
height 158 cm
Inv.-No. SK537
Provenance: 1695 commissioned from the artist with Dancing Faun (SK 541) by Prince Johann Adam Andreas I von Liechtenstein; both acquired 1702
Further works on display
Dancing Faun, 1695/1697
Bust of Anima Dannata, 1705/1707
Diana and Callisto, c. 1695/1700
The Judgement of Paris, 1695/1700
Bust of Cicero, 1695
Bust of Agrippa, 1695
Bust of Faustina the Elder, 1695
Bust of Vitellius, 1695
Bust of Augustus, 1695
Bust of Faustina the Younger, 1695
Bust of Hadrian, 1695
Bust of Seneca, 1695
Bacchanalia, 1695/1697
Child Bacchante, Clipping Cupid’s Wings, 1695
Time reveals the Truth, 1695/1697
Peace embraces Justice, 1694
The Triumph of Virtue over Vice, c. 1701/1706
Christ on the Mount of Olives, c. 1722
Bust of Marcus Aurelius as a Boy, 1707/1712
Bacchus, 1699/1701
Bust of the Anima Beata, 1705/1707
Deposition, 1710/25
Venus plucking the wings of Cupid, c. 1718/1719
Related themes
Baroque Luxury Porcelain – Highlights of the exhibition
Bronzes from the Collections of the Prince von und zu Liechtenstein
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