VENUS DE MILO PARIS — This beautiful though mutilated statue was found in 1820 by a peasant in the island of Melos (or Milo) in the Greek Archipelago. France soon became its fortunate possessor, and it forms now the especial glory of the Louvre. No special mention of this was made by ancient writers on Greek art, a fact which gives us an idea both of the number of such masterpieces in the age of Phidias and Praxiteles, and the irreparable loss which the world has sustained by the destruction of those works of art in the Dark Ages. The original posture of this statue is a matter of dispute. Some have supposed that while one hand retained her drapery, the other held above her head the apple given to her by the shepherd Paris in token of her transcendent beauty. Others, again, believe she was holding on her extended knee a mirror, or the shield of Mars, which is an attitude frequently observed in groups portraying the Deities of Love and War. The secret will probably never be disclosed, and it is safe to say that no sculptor will ever be allowed to attempt its restoration, although unnumbered thousands, as they look upon this masterpiece, may exclaim with the poet.
“Vouchsafe at last our minds to free
From doubts pertaining to thy charms;
The meaning of thy bended knee,
The secret of thy vanished arms?
Wast thou in truth conjoined with Mars?
Did thy fair hands his shield embrace,
The surface of whose golden bars
Grew lovlier from thy mirrored face?
Or was it some bright scroll of fame
Thus poised on thine extended knee,
Upon which thou didst trace the name
Of that fierce God so dear to thee?”
(from John L. Stoddard, Glimpses of the world; a portfolio of photographs of the marvelous works of God and man – 1892)