The sculpture of Paolina Borghese (1805-08) by Antonio Canova (1757-1822) was commissioned by Prince Camillo Borghese (1775-1832) in honour of his young wife, sister of the emperor Napoleon.
Princess Paolina (1780-1825) is portrayed in the guise of the goddess Venus (Venus Victrix), who was victorious in the famous Judgement of Paris. She holds an apple in her left hand, the prize for her victory over her two rivals, the goddesses Minerva and Juno.
Paolina is depicted semi-naked, which was very unusual at the time for a woman of her rank. The wooden base on which she reclines once housed a mechanism which made the sculpture rotate, thus reversing the roles of statue and spectator.
The sculpture of Paolina Borghese is on display in the Galleria Borghese.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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