Washington: Red lipstick once shimmered on the lips of the Medici Venus, a new study has revealed.
The new study involved a chemical analysis of the 2,000-year-old lifesize Hellenistic marble sculpture representing the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite.
The investigation, carried out at the University of Modena and Reggio and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, where the statue has been on display since 1677, indicates that the life-sized naked and sensual Venus originally had red lips and hair laminated with gold.
According to Fabrizio Paolucci, head of the Uffizi’s classical antiquities department, these features were meant to represent the Venus “in a very realistic way”.
To strengthen the effect, the naked statue also wore precious earrings, as newly discovered earlobe holes suggest.
One of the most copied statues of all time, the Medici Venus itself a 1st century BC copy of a Greek bronze statue and is the oldest sculpture in the Uffizi Gallery.
How and where the statue was discovered is unkown. First recorded in 1638 in the Villa Medici in Rome, it was sent to Florence in 1677 and became the icon of the Grand Tour, the cultural journey of Europe undertaken in the 18th century by young, upper-class men.
Her finely sculpted buttocks were thought to make it antiquity’s most erotic statue, while her pose, with the arms used strategically to conceal the breast and pubic region, helped bolster her huge popularity.
Indeed, the gesture basically drew attention to those parts she hoped to cover.
The Venus was the emotional climax for the Grand Tourist, as Johann Zoffany’s 1772 painting ‘The Tribuna’ of the Uffizi testifies. There, five British connoisseurs are clustered behind the celebrated statue, peering at her bottom - one even scrutinizes the sculpture with a spyglass.
These ecstatic 18th century accounts also reported that the statue had golden hair, confirming the latest chemical analysis.
The statue turned white following a harsh restoration, which was carried when the sculpture returned from Paris in 1815.
The cleaning removed the golden hair, as well as the red lips and the earlobe holes.
“Our study shows that what the Grand Tour visitors described was not the result of a collective hallucination, but the remains of the statue``s ancient decoration,” Discovery News quoted Paolucci as saying.