Aphrodite of Milos (Venus de Milo) at the Louvre

Venus de Milo – We usually think of this beautiful statue as a work of art, but it is also an example of some great engineering. It is a marble sculpture, slightly larger than life size at 203 cm (80 inches) high, but without its arms. The statue dates to about 130 BC.

Venus de Milo, known as Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, is in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France
What’s the problem?
When the Venus statue was carved, the sculpture had to understand many basic engineering ideas and use his skills to transform a block of marble into this larger than life statue.

  • Ask – The sculpture wanted to create a large statue of a beautiful woman. Marble was often selected for projects like this. It can be shape with hand tools. Skilled carvers are able to create delicate smooth surfaces that resemble skin. Marble is durable – important for a sculpture that will be enjoyed for centuries.
  • Imagine – If the statue is to be life-like, how should she be posed? What should she be wearing?
  • Design, Build – How much material needs to be removed before the detail carving can be started? How are the tools used to make the features so life-like?
  • Improve – It is believed that the Venus de Milo statue had arms and hands. Although these were found, they were never restored. Would the stature be improved with her arms restored? Does this matter?

That’s engineering

  • marble – metamorphosed limestone, composed of fairly pure calcite (a crystalline form of calcium carbonate, CaCO3). It is extensively used for sculpture, as a building material, and in many other applications.
  • chisel – a tool for carving and/or cutting a hard material such as wood or stone or metals. A chisel, typically made of hardened or tempered steel, consists of a sharpened end (called the blade) attached to a straight handle. The user forces the chisel, into the material to cut the material. The driving force may be manually applied, or in some cases using a mallet or hammer.

Engineering ideas

  • marble, limestone, calcite, calcium carbonate

Do It
Challenges for you to work on…

  • Try making a sculpture starting with a block of material – clay, wood, etc. What are some of the design decisions that you need to make before starting?
  • Use a CAD application to create a statue.

Learn more…