sleeping aphrodite, 2019
HD Video
duration 1:07

This video was the result of many failed attempts to recreate the physical pose (potentially for 3D scanning) of the Sleeping Aphrodite. Greek and Roman antiquities were not always anatomically correct. I found that if I got close to the pose from the back view, the frontal view looked wrong and if the frontal view was close, the view from the back was off. There seemed to be something impossible about it. The Sleeping Aphrodite is a Greek antiquity. The original is lost. One ancient copy is housed in Louvre in Paris and the another at the Uffizi in Rome. I recently visited both. At the Louvre one approaches her from the back and it is only as one walks around the sculpture to the front that the surprise of the male genitalia is revealed.

At the Uffizi in Rome the sculpture is in a darkened space and cordoned off. Here one sees her from the frontal view and both a breast and penis are visible simultaneously although the space is so dark and she is so far away that it is difficult to see the genitals and she might be read as simply a reclining woman.

The plaque at the Louvre has the date 500-30 BC on it and recites the story of the Sleeping Aphrodite as follows: Hermaphroditus, son of Hermes and Aphrodite, rejected the advances of the nymph Salmacis. Zeus agrees to her wish to merge their two bodies into a single being of both genders. The original Greek work, now lost, is attributed to Polycles (about 150 BC). In 1619, Bernini sculpted the mattress beneath the ancient marble statue. The statue at the Uffizi is thought to be an Imperial Age Roman copy dated in the 2nd century BC and has an entirely different mattress beneath it.