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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 March, 2005, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Israel unveils 'beautiful' Venus
The statue of Venus in the Israel Museum's antiquities hall
Curators say the statue represents "beauty and sanctity"
A sculpture of Venus judged as one of best-preserved of all Roman statues has gone on display in Jerusalem.

The headless statue, sculpted in the 2nd Century AD, was excavated in 1993 in the town of Beit Shean in northern Israel, where it stood for 400 years.

Experts at the Israel Museum have spent 12 years restoring Venus, the Roman goddess of love, nature and fertility.

Archaeologists believe the Venus was sculpted in the town of Aphrodisias in modern day Turkey.

It has, they say, the best preserved colour of any Roman statue.

Although headless, the Beit Shean Venus remains hugely detailed.

Curls of hair remain on her shoulders, while her missing hands reveal private parts of the sculpture that would normally remain unseen.

Her soft skin colour is highlighted by strong lighting in the exhibition hall.

To her left, the Venus is supported by a winged sculpture of Cupid riding a dolphin.

'Tolerant rulers'

Officials at the museum unveiled the Venus as part of an exhibition entitled "Beauty and Sanctity", highlighting how works of art throughout the ages have developed sanctified status.

In publicity for the exhibition, the Israel Museum says the Venus "exemplifies the early definition of classical Western beauty.

"The presence of accents of red, blue, and yellow pigment on its surface make this beautifully modelled and preserved Venus all the more exceptional in the history of classical antiquity," the museum says.

The striking beauty of the Venus may have saved the statue from destruction in early Christian times, said Dudi Mevorach, chief curator of Roman, Byzantine and Hellenistic exhibits.

"The Christian society in ancient Beit Shean must have had tolerant rulers and administrators who chose not tear down pagan statues while their contemporaries removed them in most other places."

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