From the Renaissance onwards, collections of plaster casts of ancient sculpture were seen as one of the most effective study aids for painters and sculptors. Later, newly established museums and galleries around the world used presentations of these casts to bring the great achievements of ancient sculpture closer to the contemporary public. In this way, they contributed to the formation of taste and aesthetic criteria, enabling individuals to develop a true conception of the beautiful, something that was also among the stated aims at the founding of Slovenia’s National Gallery.
In 1927 the board of the National Gallery, at the prompting of its director Izidor Cankar, acquired 63 casts from the Louvre. After the Second World War, the National Gallery loaned some of the sculptures to the Academy of Fine Arts and the School of Arts and Crafts for study purposes, while a number of casts were used to decorate the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. In recent years, in an effort to preserve the collection, the works have gradually been returned to the National Gallery and restored (see also NG P 916, 901 and 913).
Venus de Milo is the work of the Greek sculptor Alexandros of Antioch and dates from the period 130–100 BC. It was not rediscovered until 1820 on the Greek island of Milos, from which it takes its name. Already missing its arms at the time of its rediscovery, it was initially thought to be a depiction of the sea-goddess Amphitrite, who was venerated on the island. The statue’s sensuality and bare torso, and the fact that an apple carved from the same stone was found near the statue (the apple being an attribute of Venus), later gave weight to the theory that it is a depiction of Aphrodite or Venus. Ever since its rediscovery, the Venus de Milo has been considered a prototype of beauty and has become one of the most recognised and most influential works of art in the world.
Plaster cast; Greek work, Island of Milos; (copy 1927)