Venus of Willendorf


August 15, 2022

The Venus of Willendorf is an Upper Paleolithic limestone statuette, attributed to the Gravettian, discovered during construction work on a railway line in 1908 in Willendorf, Austria. It is kept at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria.


The statuette is made of oolitic limestone and measures 11 cm in height. It represents a naked woman standing, with her arms resting on her large breasts. Aspects of her body that have to do with reproduction — her presumably bloated pregnant belly, her big buttocks, and her enlarged thighs and breasts — were all pointed out. Which suggests (without ever having been proven) that she represents a fertility goddess. The head, finely engraved, is leaning forward and seems to be completely covered by coiled braids. The law of frontality, that is to say of symmetry, is respected. Remains of pigments suggest that the statuette was originally painted red. The perfection of his modeling brought him worldwide fame.

Archaeological context

The statuette was discovered by Josef Szombathy in collaboration with Josef Bayer in 1908 on the site of a former brickyard in Willendorf, in the Wachau region, a small village located 24 km from Krems an der Donau, on the Danube ( Lower Austria). The stratigraphy recognized during the excavations carried out on the site made it possible to attribute the statuette to the Gravettian and to attribute to it a relative age of approximately 29,000 years before the present. This statuette is part of the Paleolithic Venuses, most often plump with large breasts, buttocks (steatopyges) and belly. These features, which are found in particular in the Venus of Lespugue (Haute-Garonne), made of ivory, are often interpreted as symbols of fertility. Another figurine, also in ivory but of which only the head has come down to the present day, seems to be an exception for its finesse: it is the Lady of Brassempouy, discovered in the Landes. In 1988 another Venus, dating to 30,000 years before present, was found at Galgenberg, just above Krems.

Interpretations and symbolism

Different meanings have been proposed, all difficult to verify scientifically: mother goddess; “matrilineal orientation”: guardian of the house and hearth (“guardian of the fire”); symbol of female fertility in relation to pregnancy and motherhood, emphasizing the female genitals; representation of “the Paleolithic feminine ideal”.


The Venus of Willendorf has become an icon and serves as a logo for the roundness claim movements that have developed over the past thirty years [ref. necessary] . At the beginning of March 2018, the social network Facebook must make amends for having censored a photo of Venus published on its network in December 2017.


On the occasion of the centenary of its discovery, Austria issued on August 8, 2008 a hologram postage stamp representing the Venus of Willendorf from the front. Two First Day stamps were issued that day: that of Vienna depicts Venus three-quarters left, that of Willendorf depicts her back. On March 4, 2004, the United Nations Office in Vienna issued a souvenir sheet of 6 stamps at €0.55 in the "Native Art" series. One of the stamps and the First Day postmark represent the Venus in three-quarter view.

Notes and References

See also

Related Articles

paleolithic venus The Nude of Prehistory venus callipyge

External links

Prehistory Portal Sculpture Portal Austria Portal