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Venus Verticordia White marble; c.1833-38 By John Gibson
Inscribed on the tortoise’s shell: ‘OPVS IOANNIS GIBSON ROMAE’ Gibson recorded how the wealthy MP Joseph Neeld (1789 1856) had visited his studio in Rome several times before asking him to carve a ‘Venus, nude, but with some drapery modestly arranged without sacrificing too much of the form’.
Inspired by Classical prototypes, Gibson showed the Roman goddess of love as an idealised female nude with elegant curves and soft modelling, holding the golden apple, awarded by Paris for her beauty. Although apples are often associated with carnal love, Gibson called his statue Venus Verticordia, or the turner of men’s hearts and later recalled how he had ‘endeavoured to give my Venus that spiritual elevation of character which results from purity and sweetness’.