Disarmed: The Story of the Venus de Milo

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Alfred A. Knopf, 2003 - Art - 247 pages
7 Reviews
The Venus de Milo is both a great work of art and a popular icon, and from the moment of her discovery in 1820 by a French naval ensign, she has been an object of controversy. In Disarmed, Gregory Curtis gives us the "life" of this magnificent representation of life.
Using memoirs, letters, and official accounts, Curtis takes us up close to events. We see the Venus unearthed by a farmer digging for marble building blocks on the Aegean island of Melos at the moment a young officer and amateur archeologist looking for "relics" happened by. We also see how the island's elders, excited by the Frenchman's offer of money, fought with their Turkish overlords over who owned her. We learn how the French pressed their claim and then, outwitting other suitors, brought her to the Louvre, where she became an immediate celebrity.
A passionate researcher, Curtis shows us Europe in the early nineteenth century, caught in the grip of a classical art mania and a burgeoning romantic Hellenism. He sketches a tale of rich historical intrigue, revealing just how far the Louvre was prepared to go to prove it had the greatest classical find of the era. He tells how this resulted in two magisterial scholars, one French and one German, battling over the statue's origins and authenticity for decades.
Finally, expanding on accepted research, Curtis offers his own ideas of who carved the Venus and when, and how she appeared in her original setting on the island of Melos. He ends with a tribute to the statue's beauty and eternal appeal.
A delightful, illuminating history of one of the most famous artworks of all time.

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Review: Disarmed: The Story of the Venus de Milo

User Review  - Mckinley - Goodreads

All about the Venus de Milo. Maybe more details than I really wanted. French influence in art world, national desires for collecting artwork and naming them masterpieces. A bit about tracking down the history and what the missing arms and such would look like. Quick read. Read full review

Review: Disarmed: The Story of the Venus de Milo

User Review  - Sarah Reando - Goodreads

When someone that wrote a thesis in the devotional use of woodcuts in the convents of counter-reformation Tuscany finds a book to be unbearably boring....safe to say it's pretty boring. I'm not a ... Read full review


From Melos to Paris
in In the Hallways of the Louvre

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About the author (2003)

Gregory Curtis was editor of Texas Monthly from 1981 until 2000. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, Fortune, Time, and Rolling Stone, among other places. A graduate of Rice University and San Francisco State College, he currently lives in Austin with his wife and four children.

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