When unveiled (no pun intended) in 1892 this Carrara marble statue of a startled Venus stepping from her bathtub caused quite a bit of controversy in conservative Adelaide. Remember that saucy seaside postcards hadn’t even hit Britain at the time, let alone making it to the antipodes.
While a little confronting, for the time, viewed head on, one can only imagine the reaction a glimpse from the side, through the shrubbery (picture 2), might have caused. I suspect many the monocle dropped to the ground from the eyes of passing gentlemen while the more righteous ladies of the day passed with puckered lips in an expression of disgust, (or perhaps jealousy).
The statue itself, Adelaide’s first street statue, is a copy of the Venere di Canova (in the Pitti Palace in Florence) by the famous Florentine sculptor, Antonio Canova. Carved by the Pugi brothers in Florence, this copy is one of three statues donated to the city by William Horn, a rather eccentric mining magnate, pastoralist, politician, and philanthropist amongst many other things.
In donating the statue Horn (rather self-righteously, I feel, based on where his fortune had come from) intended it as a refining influence on a community preoccupied with commerce. Horn also wanted to ensure that the young city was aware of its European cultural roots.
The statue was unveiled by Mayor Bullock’s wife on 3 September, 1892 and deliberately placed near the guardhouse of Government House to discourage ‘larrikinism and vandalism’.
The inevitable moral indignation caused by the statue soon lead to calls for it to be put into a gallery. Concern that the white marble might discolour if left out in the open was one of the more subtle excuses to banish it of the streets. Horn stubbornly resisted such calls insisting that it remain located outdoors to educate, refine and delight passers-by – something it does to this day (depending on your point of view!).
Address: North Terrace
Directions: Between King William Road and Kintore Street