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Topical Catalogues


...an old kind of scholarship – building lists and works of reference.

Charlotte Roueché in The Times Literary Supplement, N° 5650 p.32 July 15, 2011

The role of Topical Catalogues

The information about the iconography of Aphrodite / Venus is scattered among a multitude of monographs and «catalogues raisonnés» of artists, museum catalogues, exhibition catalogues, sales catalogues  from the 17th century onwards, death inventories, myriads of bibliographical references and the Internet. Topical catalogues are compilations of this endless information through categorization of the artworks into 'topics'.  The few published topical catalogues cover art and iconography in a general way and necessarily encompass a limited number of 'Aphrodite / Venus'-artworks :
* Pigler's 'Barockthemen - Ein Auswahl von Verzeichnissen zur Ikonographie des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts'  (1974) contains about 11 main Aphrodite / Venus' topics, ordered by country-origin.
* Rochelle's 'Mythological and Classical World Art Index' (1991) has about 10 names where Aphrodite / Venus' topics can be found.
* The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300-1990s by Reid (1993) lists about 10 main entries for Aphrodite / Venus.

Neither Pigler, Rochelle or Reid give full information about the artwork (medium or support and sizes of the artwork, owner and inventory number).

The 'Topical Catalogues' of this website are unique for the iconography of Aphrodite / Venus from the Middle Ages to Modern Times.

All catalogues are available as fully searchable pdf, paperback book or as hardcover book. Read the Previews.


The Topical Catalogues respond to the methodology of iconology as defined by Aby Warburg in 1912:
1.the study of art in examination with the afterlife of ancient culture;
2.the avoidance of a strict separation of epochs, but the observance of continuity;
3. the recognition that general developments can only be highlighted through  examination of details;
4. for that purpose, not only pictures considered as the greatest masterpieces of art should be examined.

(translated summary of the essentials of Warburg's methodology, p.31 in "Aby M. Warburg und die Ikonologie, mit einem Anhang unbekannter Quellen zur Geschichte der Internationalen Gesellschaft für Ikonographische Studien"  by Schmidt, Peter; mit einem Anhang ... von Dieter Wuttke. Gratia : Bamberger Schriften zur Renaissanceforschung. Heft 20. Bamberg 1989).


The methodology used for the series of topical catalogues of Aphrodite / Venus' artworks (sculptures, reliefs, paintings, frescoes, drawings, prints and illustrations) is based on

1° The presence of the Roman name 'Venus' (or her Greek counterpart 'Aphrodite') in the title of the work - given by the creator or used by the owner - or the theme closely related to 'Venus': the stories of the 'Judgment of Paris', 'Psyche', 'Pygmalion', etc whenever Venus is depicted, or named by one of her many epithets (e.g. Callipyga); no attempt is made to interpret artworks where the artist clearly got inspiration from well-known 'Aphrodite / Venus'-models, but which do not bear her name in the title, except when the owner or art scholars explicitly refer to 'Aphrodite / Venus' in the description of the artwork. Neither the paleo-historical 'Venus' or the science-fiction 'Venus' are included. Digital paintings are also excluded. Abstract artworks presents a problem: was the artist inspired by the classical 'Aphrodite / Venus'? A few abstract artworks were included in Volumes 2.1, 3.1 and 4.1.
The compiler of these catalogues is a neutral one and refers to scholarly references as much as possible.

2° A list of 18 main topics of the iconography of Aphrodite / Venus, in accordance with her well-established characteristics and attributes and her classical companions. In order to limit the number of topics, some topics have been grouped together in a reasonable way. The classification of an artwork according to this list, however, is not without ambiguity and is especially difficult when an image is not available or the title is very general and without further written description.

3° The identification of the artists: artworks by unknown artists, often without date and generally described as 'follower of...', 'school of...'  or 'manner of...', 'copy after...' are not included; however, descriptions 'attributed to...', 'circle of...' and 'workshop or studio of...' are accepted whenever the artwork was created during the lifetime of the artist.

4° The region-origin of the identified artists where they were born: non-native artists are generally not included if they created also works in their home-country or region before they moved to their adoptive country or after they left it.

At  present six
Topical Catalogues of artists from Italy, France, the Low Countries, from Germany, Switzerland and Central-Europe, from Great Britain and Ireland and from the Eastern, Southern and Northern European Regions have been published:
1840 works of 649 Italian artists, 2997 works of 997 French artists, 2636 works of 728 artists of the Low Countries, 3198 works of 1506 artist of Germany, Switzerland and Central-Europe, 2113 works of 912 artists from Britain and Ireland, and 1371 works of 629 artists of 
the Eastern, Southern and Northern European Regions, totaling  14155 works from 5421 artists over a period of more than 500 years.

Revision of the 'The Italian Venus' (Topical  Catalogue Vol. 1.2 ) is scheduled for 2017-18.

All artworks are categorized in the 18 main topics, mutually exclusive and exhaustive: each artwork belongs to only one topic and there are no artworks left out. Within a topic, subtopic or subdivision of the subtopic, artworks are listed chronologically. The description of each artwork follows the information sources and is given without discussion, but comments from the information sources may be added. It does not exclude more accurate information from other sources not yet consulted.
See EXAMPLES in Volume 1.1 'The Italian Venus' , in Volume 2.1 'The French Venus' , in Volume 3.1 'The Venus of the Low Countries', in Volume 4.1 'The German, Swiss and Central-European Venus' , in Volume 5.1 'The British and Irish Venus' or in Volume.6.1 'The Venus of the Eastern, Southern and Northern European Regions' .

One must take into account that the compilations of the Topical Catalogues represent necessarily limited samples of the indefinite number of artworks depicting a given theme by an unknown number of artists. The samples cannot be random or representative samples in statistical terminology, i.e. all works of the 'population' would have an equal chance to get an entry in the catalogue. They are always biased by the information sources available to the compiler and many artworks have never been described or catalogued and are now lost. They are so-called 'convenient' samples. The large size of the samples counterbalances this bias and a 'convenient' sampling is hopefully 'representative' enough to estimate or to detect certain trends and relationships within the whole 'population'.

Last update of this page: 27/10/2017

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