A young woman stands at ease beside a pillar. Her chiton, belted at the waist, accentuates her body; it slides off her right shoulder, leaving her skin bare. Over the chiton she wears a himation that wraps her left arm before trailing to the ground between her leg and the pillar. The part of the garment encircling her legs is gathered into a rich array of folds, while the upper portion frames the woman’s slightly inclined face as she pulls it over her head, holding it delicately by the edge. She rests her left elbow on a pillar that depicts another female figure, an idol. The costume and artistic style of the idol were no longer common at the time the statue was carved; rather, they are intended to recall the styles of earlier periods.
While attributes usually help to identify a figure, in this case the bowl in the woman’s left hand is a modern addition. It was reconstructed based on parallels among other statues of women leaning on supports depicting Aphrodite.
The cult image of Aphrodite in her sanctuary at Daphni showed the goddess leaning on a tree, as attested by an original marble torso dating to c. 420 BC. The (lost) statue of a goddess mentioned by Pausanias (1, 19, 2) and made by Alkamenes, an artist of the Phidian school, was probably also leaning on a support. It stood in the sanctuary of “Aphrodite in the Gardens” outside the city walls of Athens, near the Ilissos river. Attic vases of the same period depict Aphrodite – as well as other women whose beauty was worth emphasizing – in a similar pose.
Nor was the popularity of this “leaning Aphrodite” type limited to Athens or Attika: several such figures have been found in Italy as well. Although the original location of the Berlin statue cannot be known, in all probability it too was erected at a sanctuary of Aphrodite in one of the Greek cities of Southern Italy.