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The Venus Impudique: the First Discovery of a Venus Figurine (Circa 14,000 BCE)


In 1864 the Marquis Paul de Vibraye discovered the Venus impudique or Immodest Venus at Laugerie Basse, France. This was the first discovery of a Venus figurine in France, and probably the first anywhere. Eight centimeters in height, the figurine was carved from ivory, with a flat stomach and could be the figure of a young girl. The head of the figurine was lost.

Discovery of the Venus impudique was among the earliest discoveries of paleolithic mobiliary art and coincided with the first publication on the subject by Edouard Lartet and Henry Christie, also in 1864.

In naming the figurine, the Marquis playfully reversed the appellation Venus pudica ("modest Venus") used to describe a statue type of the Classical Venus which often shows the goddess attempting to conceal her breasts and pubic area from view. The inference the Marquis made was that this prehistoric Venus makes no attempt to hide her sexuality. When viewed in profile, the statuette is comparable to certain cave drawings.

The figurine is preserved in the Musée de l'homme, Paris