PRINT October 1986


TOURISM IS A MONUMENT’S best preservative. In 1722, Jonathan Richardson reported to the London public that for ten hours he had lingered in the Florentine Tribuna, unable to take his eyes off the Venus de’ Medici. Decades later, British tourists still felt obliged to let the statue overwhelm their sensibilities. In his travel journal the historian Edward Gibbon said this Venus belongs “among the small number of objects able to surpass one’s most fervent hopes. From the cradle I had heard tell of the Venus de’ Medici; books, conversation, prints and models have put it before my eyes a thousand times, yet I had no idea of it.” The statue, wrote Gibbon, provided ”the most voluptuous sensation my eye had ever felt—the softest, most elegant contours; a full, sweet roundness; the softness of flesh communicated to marble, as well as the firmness one desires.” Nearly a century after the Venus de’

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