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About The Book

The Venus de Milo became a celebrity the moment she was discovered on an Aegean island in 1820, and her celebrity has never faded. But by attracting many admirers, the statue has also provoked jealousies, disputes, and international intrigues that took a century to die down and have never been completely resolved. Disarmed: The Story of the Venus de Milo is the first book to tell the complete history of this singular work of art from its beginnings in Greek history to its preeminence today as the jewel of the Louvre in Paris.

While the men who saw the statue shortly after its discovery on the island of Melos all reacted to its beauty, they also believed that here was the means to realize their own private desires. One man wanted fame and he got it by making false claims about his role in the discovery. Another wanted a way to escape to Paris from his hated posting in Constantinople, and, because of the statue, he did escape. And still another wanted to find the girl on Melos whose portrait haunted his dreams, and he got his wish. These men all contrived to buy the statue for the nation of France, outwitting the other suitors - English, German, and Turkish - who wanted the statue for themselves. The Germans in particular felt the Venus was rightfully theirs.

All Europe was in the grip of a mania for the world of classical Greece. The Venus de Milo was welcomed at the Louvre as one of the great expressions of the Greek genius. Unfortunately, evidence that arrived with the statue implied that the statue was actually from a later period. Disarmed reveals just how far the Louvre was willing to go to obscure the true origins of the statue. But the word leaked out and German scholars, still wounded and jealous that the statue had gone to France, attacked the statue while the French continued to defend it as a classical masterpiece. As the nineteenth century changed to the twentieth, this long dispute culminated with the battles of two magisterial scholars, one French and one German, whose interest in the Venus de Milo, contentious as it was, drew them into a deep and improbable friendship.

Disarmed then returns to the era when the Venus de Milo was carved to explain how the statue looked when it was originally displayed including the original position of the arms. The book concludes with a tribute to the statue's beauty that shows why the Venus de Milo is a great work of art and why it has become such an enduring popular icon.