The Venus of Willendorf: the nearly 30,000-year-old mainstay of art history 101 courses. Since her discovery in Austria in 1908, many people have tried to speak for her—calling her fat, fertile, maternal, magical, talking about her hair or hat, her breasts, and butt, her age. But no one’s really listened to what she herself has to say.
In The Venus Monologues professor and writer, Andrea Shaw Nevins gives voice to the famous hunk of Paleolithic rock over which so much ink has been spilled. With honesty, humor, and self-celebration, Venus talks us through all the obsessive rumors that have been spread about her (and her sisters). From the early days where historians and archaeologists ascribed her fertility figure status, to early feminists framing her as a goddess, to considering her as maybe a regular old (self-)portrait, Shaw Nevins as Venus talks us through the racial and gendered assumptions historians reveal when they try to get to the bottom of just who she is, and proposes some possible explanations herself.