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The Goddess in Art

Guest Author - Deb Bonam

What has happened to the female goddess depicted in art? No one rushes to a grand opening of a gallery to see a magnificent portrait that a famous painter of our times has finally finished. Where is the anticipation, the allure, and the fascination?

Goddesses in the Ancient Egyptian era were depicted in art as often or more than queens of the time, such as Hathor. Goddesses were designed out of societal creative imagination and were given names based on beliefs of their feminine powers. In paintings they were always adorned according to their proposed powers. For example, Sekmet is known as the “Powerful One” and as such is seen usually as a lion or as a woman with the head of a lion. Nut was a sky goddess and thus was always seen in art with her arms raised up above her head and her body arched downwards to hold up the heavens.

The Greeks went on to portray their number one goddess, Athena Hippia (of horses) of wisdom and skill in art. She was honored as society’s Goddess in all architecture, sculptures and paintings. She was the subject of all writers as well. Ancient Babylonia personified the entire planet Venus by making Ishtar a goddess of fertility, love and war. Shrines were built to honor this feminine deity whose name meant “Lady of Heaven” with gold and jewels. She is depicted with wings and powerful sexuality.

Here is Aurora the Greek Goddess...



The 15th Century offered us the incredible works of Sandro Botticelli. His most famous work for portraying the feminine mystique in art is that of The Birth of Venus (1485-6) whose naked goddess emerges from the sea on a shell. She is symbolic of spiritual passions and love.

The 16th Century portrait that made Leonardo Da Vinci so famous was that of society’s image of pure peacefulness and tranquility in the face of Mona Lisa. Despite her lack of adornment with fancy jewels and clothing, she became a goddess because of her simple beauty. In the mid 19th century artists of the symbolist movement grew to appreciate this artistic goddess for her feminine mystique.

Dante Gabrielle Rosetti produced goddesses in Mid 19th Century, such as in his two paintings The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849) and Ecce Ancilla Domini (1850) to represent feminine excellence modeled after the artist’s own holy family. He portrayed these lovely women in paintings in attempt to break the darkness of the pre Victorian age of a less than magical time.

There have been thousands of goddesses portrayed in art throughout history. Today we still depict women as feminine goddesses in art. Women are sought after more than ever in pop culture in the world of advertising, modeling and television. Images of beautiful goddesses are produced quickly and flashed quickly in front of our eyes. I’m not sure if today’s art has the same aesthetic quality that the slowly produced masterpiece paintings and sculptures of society’s feminine goddess had from past history. The anticipation of an art in the works to be completed, like the Sistine Chapel, is worth the wait in the end.

The feminine Goddess will always be a part of current culture in art. The style of art produced, however, will, and has changed with the time. Modern times may just have called for a modern personification of the female goddess in art. Computer graphics has catapulted the art world into a whole new direction the last 10 years. Alas, I applaud the fine art and sculptures still being done today in celebration of the feminine goddess, because it takes us back to a simpler time when onlookers waited in anticipation. Howard David Johnson is one of today’s illustrators who gives renewed life to the spirited feminine goddess in his paintings and drawing of his enchanted ladies of myths, legends and the ancient world. The goddess portrayed in art will never die.

Be sure to visit Johnson’s website at the link below to check out his goddesses.


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Content copyright © 2014 by Deb Bonam. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Deb Bonam. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Jana Taylor for details.

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