Venus of Lespugue
Historical Description by the Artist: “I am that which began, out of me the years roll…”
The Venus of Lespugue is one of the masterpieces of Ice Age art. She was found in 1922 by R. and S. de Saint-P’rier in the Cave of Rideaux, at Lespugue in the Haute-Garonne) in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Created from mammoth tusk ivory, the statuette, measures 5.75″ high; the front was badly damaged during excavation. It comes from an Upper Perigordian level, dated approximately 21,000 BCE, contemporary to the Gravettian cultural period. The original artifact is part of the collection belonging to the Muse de l’Homme.
More ink has been spilled on the topic of such Venus figurines than on any other Paleolithic artifacts. Many theories abound in both scientific and metaphysical circles about their origins, meaning and purpose. They form a tantalizing portal into our ancient past, which we peer through in an effort to understand our own origins, meaning and purpose. Speculations have included that they were fertility fetishes, gynecological teaching devices, primitive erotica, religious art and/or self portraits or all of the above.
According to textile experts Elizabeth Wayland Barber, or Olga Soffer of the University of Illinois, the statue displays the earliest representation found of spun thread, as the carving shows a skirt hanging from below the hips, made of twisted fibers, frayed at the end. Soffer says: “It depicts a fiber-weaving technology that until recently we didn’t know existed in the Stone Age.”
Margherita Mussi of the University of Rome points out that the Venus of Lespugue can be viewed as portraying two women, one of them upside down; the skirt is also the hair of the upside-down woman. The incorporation of multiple images into a single sculpture was a fairly common artistic convention in Ice Age art, along with an abstraction of form most prominently recognized in the Venus figurines.
Name: Venus of Lespugue
Size: 5.5″ Tall