Cypriot; Said to be from the temple at Golgoi
Limestone; H. 49 3/4 in. (126.4 cm)
The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.2464)
From the eighth century B.C., the Greek poets associated the goddess Aphrodite with Cyprus. On the island itself, however, the local Great Goddess did not become assimilated with Aphrodite until the fourth century B.C., when the worship of many Greek divinities was introduced. In this work, the goddess is clearly identified as Aphrodite by the small figure of Eros, the winged god of love, who perches on her shoulder.
The Cypriots did not adopt a conventional Greek way to represent Aphrodite, but transferred their own iconography for the local goddess to their representations of Aphrodite. From the ninth to sixth centuries B.C., images of the Cypriot Great Goddess were inspired by Eastern art, especially that of the Syro-Phoenician goddess Astarte, who was depicted nude. From the fifth century B.C. onward, the local goddess was shown with a high round headdress decorated with the vegetal and floral motifs that befit a fertility goddess. Here, Aphrodite wears such a crown decorated with palmettes alternating with nude females that recall the representations of Astarte. She wears a necklace of pendant lotus blossoms and a chiton with himation (cloak) drawn up over the back of her headdress. The long spiral locks falling over both shoulders recall those of sixth- and fifth-century B.C. statues of young maidens (korai) from the Athenian Acropolis.