Venus of Brizet

The Venus of Brizet (or Venus with turnips) is a marble statue discovered in a field of Saint-Just-sur-Loire (France, Department of the Loire) in 1937. Originally considered a work of art of Antiquity Roman, it was classified as object of the Historical Monuments in 1938 before one learns that it was actually a sculpture made in 1936 and buried the same year by an artist who had imagined this hoax to advertising purposes.

The “invention” takes place on April 28, 1937 in a field of Brizet crest, mound located to the east of the hamlet of Etrat (commune of Saint-Just-sur-Loire, today part of the commune of Saint -Just-Saint-Rambert). Plowing his field, the Forézien farmer Jean Gonon discovers a buried sculpture under fifty centimeters of earth. It is a half-naked, mutilated woman’s statue (nose, right hand, left arm and lower body are missing), 86 centimeters high and weighing 87 kilograms. Gonon warns an amateur archaeologist, Jean Renaud, a member of the local learned society, the Diana de Montbrison, then chaired by Noël Thiollier, regional curator of historical monuments. On the basis of photographs sent by another member of the Diana, the Hellenist Mario Meunier, former secretary of Rodin, experts such as Adrienne Blanchet, member of the Academy of inscriptions and belles-lettres, and Alexandre Philadelpheus, director from the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, date the statue of the end of (the hairstyle reminiscent of that of Empress Faustina the Younger) and believe that this anadyomene Venus neo-Attic style is the Roman copy of a Greek Aphrodite. Informed by Thiollier, the magazine ” L’Illustration ” mentions it in its issue of June 19, 1937. By sensationalism, she does not hesitate to evoke the name of the ancient sculptor Phidias. Relayed by many newspapers and magazines, this discovery has a national impact. Less than a year later, the Official Journal of May 18, 1938 announced that the Venus Brizet was classified among the Historic Monuments by decree of May 13 precedent. However, as early as November 1938, a journalist from the magazine Reflets reveals the truth: the statue is not antique because it is the work of a young artist Etienne of Italian origin, François Crémonèse ( 1907-2002). The latter, after carving the statue in Tuscan marble (after a plaster model for which posed a young Polonaise, Anna Strumika), had buried his creation October 9, 1936, without the knowledge of Gonon, to prepare a hoax to make known his talent. The process was not new because it had already been practiced by Michelangelo. To convince Thiollier and Meley, curator of the museum of Saint-Etienne, Cremonese presents and pastes the missing pieces of the statue in December 1938. Declassified by decree of October 21, 1939, the Venus is however not restored to its author, Gonon remaining owner by court decision of May 26, 1939. Its current location is unknown.

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