The Corded Venus

The Corded Venus

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Title: The Venus de Milo still roped in the Daru gallery of the Louvre museum.

Creation date : 1939

Date shown: 1939

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage place: National Museums Archives website

Contact copyright: © All rights reserved / National Museums Archives website

Picture reference: AMN, R30-photo no 7

The Venus de Milo still roped in the Daru gallery of the Louvre museum.

© All rights reserved / Archives of the National Museums

Publication date: March 2014

Historical context

Images of the evacuation of the works

In 1938, fear of war and bombing led to a major operation to move works from the public collections of the National Museums, and in particular those of the Louvre. The Mona Lisa thus joined Chambord (before being transported to Louvigny, to the Abbey of Loc Dieu, to the museum of Montauban and finally to Montal), while the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus of Milo join the castle of Valençay.

Placed under the supervision of the future director of the National Museums Jacques Jaujard, this large-scale move involves significant logistics. Dismantling, wrapping, packaging, crating, marking, labeling, transport in the museum then by truck and depots indeed require the help of numerous workers and specialized personnel, who perform this feat in a very short time.

From various photographic collections and most often commissioned by the Louvre from its administration (for archiving purposes and also for documentary testimony), the photos of this evacuation in September 1939 remain quite rare and the evacuation locations are not broadcast at the time, for obvious reasons of confidentiality and security. Like The Corded Venus studied here, they stand halfway between reportage and art, providing information on both the "technical" and historical progress of the operation, but also presenting surprising images with strong aesthetic and symbolic value.

Image Analysis

An unprecedented Venus

On the occasion of the works removal company, the management of the Louvre Museum asked three professional photographers to immortalize the operation. Familiar with the photographs of monuments and works appearing in exhibitions (catalogs) or private and public collections Noël Le Boyer, Laure Albin-Guillot and Marc Vaux follow the various maneuvers and discover a unique Louvre.

Placed in the Daru gallery of the museum, we see in the foreground the famous Venus de Milo, now descended from its recent (1936) rotating base and roped at the hips and knees. Intended to be transported in a large wooden box during assembly, the first elements of which can be seen under the statue and at its sides, the Venus is part of the perspective of the gallery which appears in a deliberate blur in the background. A space that is emptying (the workers have been kept away for photography), where scaffolding and other crates in progress or piled up (as at the back left) are finally more numerous than the few sculptures still visible (at bottom right).

If we recognize of course the missing arms, the details (himation around the hips, bun, headband, three strands on the back of the neck, etc.), the features, the turn, the beauty and the familiar serenity of the sculpture of the end of the Hellenistic period, The Corded Venus Yet is revealed here in an unprecedented way, in the surprising and almost surreal atmosphere of this moving Louvre.


A Venus "prisoner" but protected

The Corded Venus First, tells us about the practical arrangements for evacuating the works. The rooms and galleries of the Louvre are closed to the public, deserted and literally emptied, diverted from their exhibition function in this exceptional moment of urgency, almost suspended in history and time. We can also guess the technique and the processes both rudimentary (a simple three-degree rope and a few knots) and precise (assembly of the boxes here and in the rest of the gallery, position of the rope) which govern the move.

From an aesthetic point of view, the photographer uses this particular atmosphere to show us a Venus more naked than ever, fragile and vulnerable. In stark contrast, he confronts the usual majesty and serenity of sculpture with the extraordinary situation in which it finds itself. Properly divine, The Corded Venus retains its majestic stature well, but for a time it seems almost on its own, abandoned in the ghostly museum and as if under construction.

Symbolically finally, the strings evoke first of all imprisonment and restraint. Trapped in circumstances, Venus is like a metonymy of art in times of war, where barbaric violence and potential destruction threaten culture, love (the goddess Aphrodite, who would be represented here) and beauty. Soon locked up and hidden, the statue cannot in these conditions delight the eyes. Yet the same strings also say protection and care, the possibility of saving the masterpiece from temporal vicissitudes. Sheltered in the castle of Valençay until 1945 and replaced by a cast when the museum reopened by the Nazis on September 29, 1940, La Venus is thus preserved.

  • Occupation
  • Louvre
  • War of 39-45
  • Nazism
  • Paris


AZEMA, Jean-Pierre and BEDARIDA, François, La France des années noirs (2 vol.), Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 1993.BERTRAND DORLEAC, Laurence, The art of defeat: 1940-1944, Paris, Seuil, 1993 .CORCY, Stéphanie, Cultural life under the occupation, Paris, Perrin, 2005.

Catalog of the exhibition The Louvre during the war, Regards photographiques 1938-1947, Paris, Les éditions du Musée du Louvre, 2009.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The Corded Venus"

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