Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Venus of Willendorf

 The Venus of Willendorf

An icon of prehistoric art
dated 24,000-22,000 BCE
11.1 cm high

She has large breasts, a very round protruding middle and exaggerated genitalia. She has no face - simply circles of braided hair. There is a suggestion of arms and legs, but those are not the important aspect of the sculpture. Clearly, her makers were emphasizing her womanly aspects, but more importantly, her fertile characteristics. 

The Venus of Willendorf, discovered in 1908, is believed by many to have been some sort of fertility goddess figurine. This is merely speculation, but it is an important plot element in my favorite book series: Earth's Children by Jean M. Auel.  In the book, life was created by the Mother Goddess (essentially Mother Earth), and procreation was incredibly important. The Venus plays the roll of the physical idol that one can carry around in order to worship the Mother wherever you are. She has no carved face, because who can carve the true face of the Mother?

She is not, however, pregnant. She is very fat, though, which is incredibly unlikely in the time period in which she was carved. If the statue was carved from a real life model of a woman, that woman would have been very special indeed to have been able to get so fat.  The fact that several figurines with similar characteristics from this time period were found across a broad geographical area ranging from France to Siberia has led to speculation about the place of women in Stone Age society - possibly a matriarchy existed where women ruled.  


  1. It is actually the statue of a woman that has had many children. Even though in the time she was carved the men and women worked together, a woman that had her figure was sacred and spoke with mother earth or the goddess. She was though to be the vessel that the earth mother gave birth to all the children of the world through. She has carried, birthed, and fed many children, and it shows on the way her body is shown.

    I love learning all about it and cannot get enough! Great post!

  2. Thanks Kayce!

    I've heard many interpretations of the Venus figurines, and though we can't know precisely what they meant to the people they created, they have inspired some marvelous speculations! I agree that she may indeed be a woman who has had many children, due to her side-protruding middle. There is an argument, however, that though her breasts are large they are not sagging, and so she is not quite "old."

    Have you read the Jean M. Auel books? They're marvelous!

  3. I love those books!! They are my absolute favorite!


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