Priceless Deception


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This Venus , this masterpiece that had arrived to such hope and expectation, appeared not to be an example of perfection after all. Now what? Forbin was a tall, thin aristocrat considered by many the most handsome man in France.

An easy charm complemented his good looks. And he believed that political necessities were sometimes more important than truth. So Forbin and his scholars at the Louvre looked more closely at the base.

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It had a square hole in the top to hold a herm, a short square pillar with a carved head at the top. No sculptor with the skill to carve the Venus de Milo , they told each other, would intentionally put such an incongruously small and undistinguished object next to a masterpiece.

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It must have been the product of some later, crude restoration. And if the inscribed base and its inconvenient inscription did not really belong with the Venus , why display it? In fact, why mention it at all? Whether Forbin hid or destroyed the telltale base has been a touchy subject at the Louvre from until today. Forbin had these heretics banned from the workshop. This established the official French position about the statue, a position that lasted against all evidence for more than years.

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But Forbin overlooked one thing. When Jacques-Louis David, a neoclassical Paris painter who had taken up exile in Belgium after the restoration of Louis XVIII, heard about the Venus de Milo , he wrote to a former student who worked at the Louvre and asked him to make a drawing of it. The former student, a man named Debay, gave the task to his teenage son, himself an art student, who happened to make his drawing while the inscribed base was attached. After the statue went on public display and access to it could no longer be restricted, Clarac published a pamphlet in which he stated his heretical view that the Venus was Though a kindly man who was generous toward struggling artists, Clarac had a reputation as a poor scholar, and in France his paper was largely ignored.

Their delight grew out of a conviction that Germany was the rightful owner of the statue.

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In , Crown Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria had purchased the ruins of an ancient theater on Melos near where the Venus had been discovered. Ludwig insisted that since the statue had been found on his land, it belonged to him, a claim the French chose to ignore. The battle between French and German scholars raged for the next hundred years, fading away only when prejudice against Hellenistic art—by now greatly admired—dissolved in the years between the two world wars. Finally, the French—without admitting defeat—simply abandoned the fight. Pasquier, the current conservator, does not dispute the Hellenistic dating, but he remains tactfully respectful toward the French scholars who preceded him by declining to take a position on whether the base ever belonged with the Venus de Milo.

Early in the 20th century, one other intriguing piece of evidence came to light. The name Alexandros of Antioch is mentioned twice in an inscription found in Thespiae, a city near Mount Helicon on the mainland of Greece. It was in Thespiae that an important competition of poetry and theatrical arts was held every five years. The inscription, which dates to about 80 B. Like many artists of his time, Alexandros no doubt left his home in Antioch, wandering wherever his commissions took him. As a musician, he was good enough to win the contest and some ephemeral fame.

As a sculptor, however, he was indisputably a genius whose name deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Phidias, Praxiteles and the other ancient masters. After all, Alexandros, son of Menides, created the Venus de Milo. Continue or Give a Gift. Privacy Policy , Terms of Use Sign up. SmartNews History. History Archaeology. World History. Featured: The Suspect in City Hall. Science Age of Humans. Future of Space Exploration. Human Behavior. Our Planet. Earth Optimism Summit. Ingenuity Ingenuity Festival.


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The Innovative Spirit. Travel Taiwan. American South. Travel With Us. At the Smithsonian Visit. New Research. Curators' Corner. Ask Smithsonian. Photos Submit to Our Contest. Photo of the Day. New Heart English Bible With him is strength and wisdom.

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He owns [both] the deceiver and the person who is deceived. Jubilee Bible With him is strength and existence; he who errs and he who leads astray are his. American King James Version With him is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his. American Standard Version With him is strength and wisdom; The deceived and the deceiver are his.


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Brenton Septuagint Translation With him are strength and power: he has knowledge and understanding. Douay-Rheims Bible With him is strength and wisdom: he knoweth both the deceiver, and him that is deceived.

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Darby Bible Translation With him is strength and effectual knowledge; the deceived and the deceiver are his. English Revised Version With him is strength and effectual working; the deceived and the deceiver are his. Webster's Bible Translation With him is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his.

World English Bible With him is strength and wisdom. Job Will you speak wickedly on God's behalf or speak deceitfully for Him? Job Would it be well when He examined you? Could you deceive Him like a man? Daniel and declared: "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. Treasury of Scripture With him is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his. With Job With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding.

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