The Kelsey’s Ugly Object of the Month

Suzanne at the Kelsey had mentioned this blog post idea when I visited last month. I’m glad it came into being because ‘ugly’ objects can be very important–sometimes more important than pretty ones!
Enjoy this post on Aphrodite and her prosthetic legs!

Kelsey Museum

BY SUZANNE DAVIS, Curator for Conservation, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Beauty isn’t everything at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology; we value all evidence of life in the ancient world, even when the object is, erm, ugly. This month’s ugly object is an Aphrodite figurine made from copper alloy (aka bronze).

Figurine of Aphrodite. Bronze. Late 3rd century AD? KMA 10888. Before treatment. Figurine of Aphrodite. Bronze. Late 3rd century AD? KMA 10888. Before treatment.

I would never argue that Aphrodite herself is unattractive, but this figurine has seen better days. It was severely corroded when excavated at Karanis, Egypt, in the 1930s, and the legs were in pieces. Sometime after excavation, the corrosion patina was stripped with an electrochemical treatment that was once popular for archaeological metals. This resulted in a dull, brown, pitted surface with multiple holes.

Fast forward to 2015, when this object was chosen for a special exhibition. We wanted to reattach the feet and other fragments, but the…

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