On Hidden Things
She was discovered on April 8, 1820 by a peasant farmer named Yorgos Kentrotas. Kentrotas was digging through the ruins of Milos, and he found her in pieces beneath the crumbled village. He immediately knew she was valuable: carved of marble, she is ethereally beautiful. Towering above six feet, her lines are all graceful curve and strength. A likely representation of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, she exuded powerful presence and something otherworldly, even in pieces.
Created sometime between 130 and 100 BC, she waited almost 1900 years to be discovered by the modern world, but her reintroduction was delayed. Kentrotas, the peasant farmer, hid her in pieces in his barn. He knew that she was more than aesthetically important, a god object that represented more than he could understand; she was valuable monetarily. And so she waited, in his coveting.
What did Kentrotas do, while he waited for the right offer? Did he sit in his barn with her for hours, admiring her, as Greeks would have done 1900 years earlier when she would have been displayed on a pedestal, moving her viewers to acts of awe and worship? Did he stare at her face and wonder about her creator, her origin, what her embodiment in human form could be? In those dark, cool hours, was there a mystic inspiration she passed to him, goddess of love and beauty that she was, that inspired more revelry? Or did he keep her hidden for himself, out of panic that once the Ottoman authorities discovered her, she would be ripped from his presence, or worse, that his life would be endangered for hiding her at all?
Or worst of all: did he simply look at her, chunks of female form in marble, and wonder how much he could get for each strike of the chisel?
One reason that the Venus de Milo has always affected me so is because I find she represents all that we keep hidden. She is the beautiful talent, the craft, that we were given to share with the world. These glorious things that we have to offer were meant to be on display, to move others to thought and action. She also represents what we have stolen away: the parts of ourselves that we keep hidden in the barn because we are afraid of revealing them, of having them taken away from us, or worse, that we selfishly believe are ours alone. We can be the ones who ought to fight for her ransom, to restore her to the world. But we can also be the ransomer: the fearful one who leaves her in pieces in a dark room, her glory hidden, waiting for the right price.
As this new year turns over, I find myself asking how I will restore my Venus de Milo to the world and what a brave fight that will be.