Venus of Willendorf

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Missing image
Venus of Willendorf

The Venus of Willendorf, now known as the Woman of Willendorf, is a 11.1 cm (4 3/8 inches) high statuette of a female figure, discovered at a paleolithic site near Willendorf, Austria, in 1908 by archaeologist Josef Szombathy. It is carved from an oolitic limestone that is not local to the region, and tinted with red ochre.

As of 1990, upon a revised analysis of the stratigraphy of its site, it was estimated to have been carved 22,000 to 24,000 years ago. Very little is known about its origin, method of creation, or cultural significance.

The Venus is not meant to be a realistic portrait but rather an idealization of the female figure. Her vulva, breasts, and swollen belly are very pronounced, suggesting a strong connection to fertility. Her tiny arms are folded over her breasts, and she has no visible face, her head being covered with what might be coils of braids, eyes, or a kind of headdress.

The nickname, urging a comparison of this rather obese figurine to the classical image of "Venus", causes resistance in some modern analysis. "The ironic identification of these figurines as "Venus" pleasantly satisfied certain assumptions at the time about the primitive, about women, and about taste," Christopher Witcombe has noticed (link ( At the same time there is professional reluctance to identify her as an Earth Mother goddess of paleolithic Old Europe. Some suggest that her corpulence would represent high status in a hunter-gatherer society, and that beside her obvious fertility she could be an emblem of security and success.

The statue's feet are not shaped in a way which would allow it to stand on its own. Due to this it has been speculated that it was meant to be held, rather than simply looked at. Rather than an icon of a Mother Goddess some archaeologists have called it merely a good-luck charm. Others have raised the possibility that it was designed to be inserted vaginally, perhaps as a fertility charm.

The Venus of Willendorf is part of the collection of the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Since this figure's discovery and naming, several similar statuettes and other forms of art have been discovered. They are collectively referred to as Venus figurines.

External links

et:Willendorfi Venus fr:Vnus de Willendorf lb:Venus vu Willendorf nl:Venus van Willendorf ru:Венера Уиллендорфа


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