An exhibition on Ice Age art is going on at the British Museum in London. An article about the event mentions the Venus figurines, which has been discussed on this blog before.
In the first room is a small gathering of little figurines (let’s not call them “Venuses”) – small, nuggety pieces three or four inches high, worked in the round and showing women’s bodies. Made of stone or bone or ivory, some are slender and depict young women in the early stages of pregnancy. Others show older women, weighted with huge, low-slung breasts, wide backsides, tapering legs. The heads are bent in a manner almost demure, or perhaps it’s the infolded attitude of pregnant women. Many actually do show women in the late stages of pregnancy, when one’s body is exaggerated and unrecognisable even to oneself. They are earthy, mute, potent things, and were made with deliberation. Some were apparently intended to be worn as pendants, upside down, so as to be viewed by the wearer. Senior curator and author Jill Cook believes these figures were most likely made for women by women. “The female figures probably had important occult, or shamanic functions influential on family life.” At least one was deliberately smashed and thrown away – a passionate act. Perhaps it failed in some talismanic duty. Whatever the uses of such sculptures, “by looking at its aesthetics, we are looking at the evolution of our minds”. Art is not a hobby; it makes us, and shapes us.[Ice age carvings: strange yet familiar]