Venus of Savignano (24,000 BCE)
The Italian figurine known as the "Savignano Venus" is a prehistoric sculpture which has been assigned to the era of Gravettian art (25,000-20,000 BCE). Discovered in 1925, it is taller than most other Venus Figurines (it stands 22 centimetres in height), and is carved out of serpentine (steatite). There is some disagreement about its age. On the basis of a stylistic comparison with other known venuses - in particular the steatite Venus of Polichinelle (also known as the Grimaldi Venus), as well as the French Venus of Monpazier (25,000 BCE) - archeologists date it to the Late period of Paleolithic art, but at least one scholar considers it to be a work of Neolithic art (c.6,000-2,000 BCE). The Savignano Venus is part of the collection of prehistoric art at the Pigorini Museum (Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico L. Pigorini) in Rome. Together with the Fumane Cave Paintings from near Verona (35,000 BCE), the Venus of Polichinelle from Balzi Rossi (c.25,000 BCE), and the Addaura Cave Engravings from Monte Pellegrino (11,000 BCE), the Savignano Venus ranks among the earliest art in Italy.
The figurine was found in 1925 by Mr. Olindo Zambelli in a place called "Pra Martin" at Savignano sul Punaro, near Modena. Buried 4-feet deep in clay soil, it was unearthed during building works at a stable. It was handed over to Professor Giuseppe Graziosi who donated it to the Pigorini Museum in Rome. When found, there were no other traces of any ancient cave art or any artifacts to suggest that the site dated back to the Stone Age. Direct dating was therefore impossible, hence the need for the stylistic analysis and comparison with other figurines of the Gravettian culture.
The Venus of Savignano - measuring 225 millimeters in height, 48 millimeters in width, 52 millimeters in depth and weighing more than half a kilo - was sculpted from a block of yellow-greenish serpentine stone. Like all prehistoric venus figures, it depicts an obese female nude, with emphasized female features and genitalia. The head resembles a conical shaped pyramid; there are no shoulders, while the arms are only suggested and without hands. The large bust is tilted backwards, the belly bulges, as do the buttocks. Voluminous thighs end in short tapering legs without feet. A well-preserved, polished figurine, some traces of red ochre can be seen on the head, right arm and lower butt.
Italian Venus Figurines
The fifteen Italian venuses found in the Ligurian caves include the following, among others:
The Venus of Polichinelle (Pulchinella)
A treasure trove of mobiliary art, these statuettes comprise the largest series of venus figurines in Western Europe ever to be discovered in one place. Half are now in the collection of the Musee des Antiquites Nationales (MAN) in Saint Germain-en-Laye, France.
Here is a short selection of the most famous venus carvings from the Aurignacian and Gravettian periods of the Upper Paleolithic.
of Hohle Fels (ivory) (38,000-33,000 BCE) Germany.
For more about rock carving, see: Rock Engravings.
For more about European parietal art, see: Cave Painting.
For more information about prehistoric art in Italy, see: Homepage.
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF STONE AGE