Venus of Monpazier
Discovery, Characteristics, Age of Prehistoric Fertility Symbol.

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Venus of Monpazier.
Among the oldest art in France.

Venus of Monpazier (c.25,000 BCE)


Discovery and Age
Other Prehistoric Venus Figurines
Related Articles


The Venus of Monpazier is a small steatopygous prehistoric sculpture which was carved during the era of Upper Paleolithic prehistoric art and is dated to about 25,000 BCE. It was discovered in 1970 in the Dordogne region, and is rated among the oldest Stone Age art in France. It consists of a stone sculpture carved out of limonite, a local rock, and belongs to the series of nude female sculptures known as "Venus Figurines" - a style of mobiliary art which emerged across Europe during the middle of the Upper Paleolithic. Like all these fertility symbols, the Venus of Monpazier is depicted nude, and attention is deliberately drawn to the female genitalia, notably the vulva which is greatly exaggerated in size. Due to its pronounced buttocks and extended belly it is sometimes mistaken for the green steatite Venus of Polichinelle (c.25,000 BCE), which is also known as the Grimaldi Venus after its discovery in the caves of Balzi Rossi at Grimaldi in Italy. The Monpazier figurine also bears a resemblance to two other Dordogne venuses - the Venus of Tursac and the Venus of Sireuil (both about 23,000 BCE and on display at the Musee d'Archeologie Nationale et Domaine, St-Germain-en-Laye). For more about the chronological development of this type of portable sculpture, see: Prehistoric Art Timeline (from 2.5 million BCE).


Discovery and Age

The Venus of Monpazier was discovered in a ploughed field by Monsieur Elisee Cerou, a jeweller from the nearby medieval town of Monpazier, while collecting flints in April 1970. A large number of stone tools from the Mousterian and Perigordian cultures, as well as artifacts dating to Neolithic culture, were also found in the immediate vicinity, but no cave art. Later the same year, a group of visitors to his shop spotted the tiny piece of rock art, recognized its importance and contacted the local office for the preservation of prehistoric artifacts. Further investigations led to the figurine being assigned to the era of Gravettian art, along with similar objects found in France such as the Venus of Laussel, the Venus of Tursac, the Venus of Brassempouy, the Venus of Sireuil, and the Venus of Lespugue (all about 23,000 BCE). Unfortunately, during the investigations the Monpazier treasure was accidentally broken: part of the head was fractured and the figurine snapped at the waist. Later part of one foot was smashed. Luckily it was carefully reconstructed using some of the many photographs which had already been taken.


The Venus of Monpazier is smaller than most venus-type female nudes, and measures 5.6 centimetres (2 inches) in height, 1.6 centimetres in width and 1.4 centimetres thick. It is carved out of a locally abundant rock containing mostly limonite, a yellowish brown iron ore, with added quartz and clay. The main colour of the figurine is chocolate brown, but patches of yellow can be seen on the back of the legs and head, on the right breast, right hip and thigh. The head is left largely undefined with oval cups for eyes and no nose. The arms are missing, while the breasts are heavy and drooping. The belly is large, rounded and thrust forward. The buttocks are pronounced and protrude significantly, even by venus standards. The figure's vulva is the defining feature of this piece. Of equal size to the buttocks, its exaggerated but realistic depiction is an expression of its importance as the gateway to life. The figure's legs are quite short and ill-defined but (unusually) are tipped with feet.

Note: For more about ancient artworks, see: Stone Age Art and also Paleolithic Art and Culture.

Other Prehistoric Venus Figurines

In addition to the two Acheulian humanoid effigies, the Moroccan Venus of Tan-Tan (200,000 - 500,000 BCE) and the Golan Venus of Berekhat Ram (230,000 - 700,000 BCE), which were created in an altogether different era, a new series of venuses made by "modern man" emerged during the Aurignacian and Gravettian cultures, between 35,000 and 20,000 BCE. They include the following:

- Venus of Hohle Fels (38,000-33,000) Swabian Jura, Germany.
- Venus of Galgenberg (c.30,000 BCE) Lower Austria.
- Venus of Dolni Vestonice (26,000) Czech Republic.
- Venus of Savignano (24,000) Italy.
- Venus of Willendorf (25,000) Austria.
- Venus of Moravany (24,000) Slovakia.
- Venus of Laussel (c.23,000) France.
- Venus of Brassempouy (23,000) France.
- Venus of Lespugue (23,000) France.
- Venus of Kostenky (22,000) Voronezh, Russia.
- Venus of Gagarino (20,000) Lipetsk, Russia.
- Avdeevo Venuses (20,000) Kursk, Russia.
- Venuses of Mal'ta (20,000) Irkutsk, Siberia.
- Zaraysk Venuses (20,000) Moscow Oblast, Russia.
- Venus of Engen (13,000) Switzerland.
- Venus of Monruz-Neuchatel (10,000) Switzerland.
- Venus of Eliseevichi (14,000) Bryansk Oblast, Russia.

Related Articles

• For the most common type of Stone Age sculpture, see: Ivory Carving.

• See also the rarer technique of Wood Carving.

• For the later evolution of sculpting, see: History of Sculpture.

• For other forms of Stone Age art, see: Petroglyphs and Pictographs.


• For more about prehistoric fertility symbols and other statuettes, see: Homepage.

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