The Crouching Venus thumbnail 1
The Crouching Venus thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Sculpture, Room 23, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries

The Crouching Venus

The Crouching Venus
, 1702 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The Crouching Venus is a remarkable instance of John Nost the Elder’s (ca. 1655-ca. 1712) assured carving, and is a rare surviving example of a classical subject by the artist in marble. The sculpture's scale and accomplishment give it a grandeur and presence which were truly exceptional at that date in Britain. Like the antique prototype, Venus is depicted ineffectually attempting to cover her nakedness, her gesture only succeeding in drawing attention to her sensual body. The goddess is thought to be bathing, or possibly adjusting her hair, and caught unawares. Nost’s sculpture suggests the sophisticated level of patronage of the wealthy gentry in Britain at the start of the eighteenth century, and tantalisingly evokes the way in which interiors of eighteenth-century country houses were adorned with sculpture.


object details
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Venus
  • Plinth
Materials and Techniques
Brief Description
Marble figure on contemporary marble plinth by John Nost the Elder.
Physical Description
The nude goddess half-kneels on an integral plain rectangular base, resting her left buttock on an overturned urn, her arms crossed in front of her breasts, her head turned to her right, and her hair partly coiled in a bun at the back of her head. She wears a bracelet on her upper left arm. The sculpture is signed on the front of the base: ‘I. Nost F. /1702’. The figure is set on a contemporary marble base, also designed by John Nost.
Dimensions
  • Statue and plinth height: 237cm
  • Statue alone height: 122cm
Marks and Inscriptions
'I. NOST..F. / 1702' (On the base)
Credit line
Purchased with the support of the Hugh Phillips Bequest
Object history
The Crouching Venus was probably made for the statesman and lawyer Andrew I Archer (1659-1741) for Umberslade Hall, Warwickshire. Andrew Archer was the brother of the gentleman architect Thomas Archer (c.1668-1743). Umberslade had been constructed in c.1695-1700, and it is thought that the sculpture was intended to be placed in the original entrance hall soon after its completion. It was apparently originally paired with a statue of Apollo, perhaps a version of the Apollo Belvedere, now lost. No documentation of the original commission survives, and it is first recorded at Umberslade in 1815, when the house was described as being ‘long neglected’ and ‘entirely unfurnished and forsaken’. It had not been regularly occupied since 1778, the date of the death of the 2nd Lord Umberslade, also Andrew Archer, the second son of the Andrew I Archer, the likely patron of the sculpture. The sculpture seemingly remained there throughout the eighteenth and into the nineteenth century, despite the house’s apparent neglect. In 1858 the house was sold to the Muntz family, who re-modelled it, and the sculpture’s position in the new entrance hall was therefore a later placement. Possibly at that date the plinth was cut down at the back, so that it could be accommodated in the niche. In the 1970s the house was sold once more and converted into flats. The Muntz family however retained ownership of the Crouching Venus, although it continued to be housed at Umberslade. The sculpture was sold in 2007 to Thomas Coulborn & Sons Ltd. Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, from whom it was purchased in 2012 by the V&A.
Association
Summary
The Crouching Venus is a remarkable instance of John Nost the Elder’s (ca. 1655-ca. 1712) assured carving, and is a rare surviving example of a classical subject by the artist in marble. The sculpture's scale and accomplishment give it a grandeur and presence which were truly exceptional at that date in Britain. Like the antique prototype, Venus is depicted ineffectually attempting to cover her nakedness, her gesture only succeeding in drawing attention to her sensual body. The goddess is thought to be bathing, or possibly adjusting her hair, and caught unawares. Nost’s sculpture suggests the sophisticated level of patronage of the wealthy gentry in Britain at the start of the eighteenth century, and tantalisingly evokes the way in which interiors of eighteenth-century country houses were adorned with sculpture.
Bibliographic Reference
Trusted, Marjorie, 'Two eighteenth-century sculpture acquisitions for the Victoria and Albert Museum, London', The Burlington Magazine, Vol. CLIV, November 2012, pp. 773-779
Collection
Accession Number
A.5-2012

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record createdMay 31, 2012
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