The Hermaphrodite Venus is a Venus figurine carved from translucent green Soapstone found at Balzi Rossi, Italy. It is 52mm high, 17mm wide and 11mm thick, the maximum dimensions are at the pelvis.

Hermaphrodite Venus

The Hermaphrodite Venus


It was originally found with the head broken off, a flake removed from the back of the thighs and lower buttocks, broken into three pieces which were glued back together.

The surface is polished and worn, with remains of concretions in the concave parts. The neck, what remains of it, is shown clearly. The torso is very flat, with normal breasts hanging low. The belly is large, but not commensurate with that of the Losange for example. Under the stomach are three difficult to interpret features: laterally, two elongated subtriangular masses we have considered the representation of hands on the belly, which is possible but not obvious, since they might also be inguinal fat folds, recalling those which may be observed in the Bushman women.

For the central feature, it is held to be an erect penis, but this is unconvincing. It takes a lot of imagination to distinguish the penis, which remains the essential element of the phallic representation; as for the roughly circular mass that is found below it, it could be a testicular pouch.

For the rest, hips, buttocks and thighs are of normal proportions, with no trace of extra fat deposits. In what remains of the dorsal side, since there is a very moderate projection of the buttocks, there is no trace of steatopygia. The back of the statue, despite its poor condition, is also very interesting. It is well shaped, with a spinal depression around the shoulder blades, and an indication of the curvature of the small of the back, emphasised by a cluster of parallel incisions; the buttocks, as we have said, are normal, with an incomplete medial hole for the anus. As for the legs, the lower limbs are broken off at the knees.

It might be thought that the incisions marking the curvature of the small of the back represented a belt, reminiscent of the Russian Kostenki statuettes, and one can observe that these incisions extend on either side of the figure and join at the front, at the lateral features mentioned above. It is therefore possible to suppose that the whole thing, the back belt and the frontal features, represent an ornament of some kind - as well as possibly male organs.