Aphrodite, late Hellenistic period (2nd half of 2nd – 1st half of 1st century BC)
The clay figurine from Myrina or another workshop in Asia Minor measures 18.8 cm and is currently part of the Museum’s permanent exhibition.
The figurine shows Aphrodite leaning on a pillar, naked save for the mantle held up with her left hand. This late depiction of Aphrodite also reflects the transformation undergone by many female deities in the course of Graeco-Roman antiquity. While the Oriental precursors were still warlike, demonic women whose unbridled sexuality was also expressed in cultic practices, Homer’s reading was already reduced to a lascivious femininity – a tendency that would increasingly gain ground in the course of time. In his study The Theme of the Three Caskets Freud writes that the goddess of love was once identical to the goddess of death: “Even the Greek Aphrodite had not wholly relinquished her connection with the underworld, although she had long surrendered her chthonic role to other divine figures, to Persephone, or to the tri-form Artemis-Hecate. The great Mother-goddesses of the oriental peoples, however, all seem to have been both creators and destroyers – both goddesses of life and fertility and goddesses of death.”
Text from: “Meine alten und dreckigen Götter. Aus Sigmund Freuds Sammlung” exhibition catalogue, Vienna 2000. See there for further reading.