This is evident from the frequency with which works of the deity appear on the secondary market.
Among the latest offerings at auction were copies of two famous nude paintings of Venus that caught the attention of bidders.
The first, offered on February 25 at Duke’s (25% buyer’s premium) of Dorchester, was based on Titian’s 16th century painting Venus of Urbino (c.1534). Depicting a full-length nude reclining on a chaise longue, the 3ft 9in x 4ft 11in (1.15 x 1.5m) was painted by Italian artist Natale Schiavoni (1777-1858), best known for his erotic portraits of young nude women.
Estimated at £3000-5000, it was knocked down at £20,000, a price in line with two other large-scale reclining nudes by the painter at auction, according to artprice.com.
A third compositionally close example by Schiavoni is currently for sale at London dealer Mayfair Gallery, priced at £120,000, although the ‘Venus’ in that painting is identified as the 19th century ballet dancer Fanny Elssler.
The second work offered was a modern copy of Velasquez’s 17th century painting the Rokeby Venus – not as it appears in its restored state today but after it was famously damaged with a meat cleaver by the suffragist Mary Richardson in 1914 as it hung in the National Gallery.
Consigned to Mallams’ (25% buyer’s premium) sale in Oxford, the 3ft 11in x 5ft 9in (1.21 x 1.77m) photo-realist work in oils, titled Restoration, was painted by Nicholas Middleton (b.1975) and features seven trompe-l’oeil cuts.
Middleton has said he wanted to restore the damage done to the original painting as the episode marked a significant moment in the campaign for women’s equality, “creating a snapshot of a brief moment in 1914 – uncovering a campaign of political activism that is often forgotten in the triumph of getting the vote”.
Offered in the March 10 sale – by coincidence 107 years to the day Richardson walked into the National Gallery to carry out her plan – it surpassed an £800- 1200 guide to sell to a UK dealer for £7400 against competition from the continent.
The painting appears to be the first time Middleton’s work has sold on the secondary market.