La Venus Hottentote

Handcoloured engraving. Three men, with a dog, gaze at the semi-naked form of the 'Hottenton Venus' from behind a rope barrier. Saartjie (Sara) Baartman (c. 1788–1815/16) was a Quena, or Hottentot, woman brought to Europe from South Africa in 1810 by a ship’s surgeon. She was publicly displayed to paying crowds in Britain and later, most famously, in France. Audiences reacted with both curiosity and mocking incredulity at her distinctive physical appearance, which – with prominent genitalia and pronounced buttocks (steatopygia) – was in striking contrast to that of European women. Baartman embodied the ‘Other’, representing the perceived 'exoticism' and eroticism of ‘primitive’ Africa. She was exhibited naked in a cage in Piccadilly, and in Paris she posed as a model and became the focus of wanton sexual attention. She died of an infection on, or shortly before, 1 January 1816. The French anatomist George Cuvier (1769–1832) made a cast of her body, and her brain and genitals were pickled for public exhibition. They remained on display in Paris until 1985 and were finally returned to South Africa for a traditional burial in 2002. Part of the Michael Graham-Stewart slavery collection.

Object Details

ID: ZBA2687
Collection: Special collections
Type: Print
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Loftus, George
Date made: circa 1814
People: Loftus, George
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Michael Graham-Stewart Slavery Collection. Acquired with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund
Measurements: 200 x 277 mm

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