This Venus is among the few life-size Renaissance bronze statues in the United States and, certainly, one of the best. Her proportions recall classical ideals of feminine beauty, but are a little fuller, more rounded and compact. Standing with the weight on her left leg, she twists in a subtle spiral. Her right hand offers a conch shell, an ancient female symbol. The luxuriant tresses of her hair, bound in knots and chased with fine lines, wind as if full of energy. The voluptuous contours and warm gaze make this statue a persuasive conception of the ancient Greco-Roman goddess of love, beauty, and procreation.
The Venus was once thought to be a work of Jacopo Sansovino, probably because she is paired with a statue of Bacchus and a Faun that resembles Sansovino's Bacchus of 1511-12 in Florence. Recent research has dated the Washington Venus and Bacchus closer to 1600 and traced their ownership back as far as 1656, when they stood in the garden of a villa at Lainate, near Milan. The sculptural decoration for this garden in the late 1580s was supervised by Francesco Brambilla, chief of sculpture for Milan Cathedral. Other works produced from his designs suggest that he may have made the wax or clay model that was cast into the Venus.