Publication Date

Fall 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Art History


Anthony Raynsford; Isabelle Pafford; Dore Bowen


In this thesis, I argue that The Aphrodite of Knidos statue has had a significant impact on the perception of the female nude in art throughout history because of this statue's iconic nature; it lent itself to be easily copied by artists, which has allowed artists to alter the Knidian image for cultural purposes. This thesis explores why this statue became the canon in Antiquity and continued to be replicated in subsequent eras. The first chapter examines how Praxiteles created the formula that would become the canon. By looking at Knidian and other ancient statues that take inspiration from the Knidian, I explore how the pose and style become what artists use to depict the nude standing female at different historical points. I then examine how Botticelli uses the Knidian statue's pose, form, and style to create The Birth of Venus. I explore how the culture and thinking of the time helped shape the way Botticelli formed his figure. After Botticelli, I examine the Neoclassical era with The Greek Slave by Hiram Powers. Powers used Greek thinking and techniques to create a figure with a moral and religious message dictated by his audience's culture and social norms. Laura Dumm continues challenging our modern world's cultural and social norms with A Prisoner No More. This painting takes directly from Botticelli's Venus; Dumm changes the classical Renaissance ideal figure to become a social justice figure and demands changes in the world. These works use the iconic figure, the standing female nude in the contrapposto pose. Through exploring these works, I realized that Praxiteles's canon allowed other artists to use his form to depict a standing female nude, demonstrating the cultural values at that time.