The original purpose of these artefacts is not known although it is assumed they served a ritual or symbolic function – emblems of the cult of fertility and perhaps evidence of a matriarchal society in pre-history.
The Vénus Impudique, which gave the category its name, was the first Palaeolithic sculptural representation of a woman to be discovered in modern times. Found in 1864 in the Vézère valley, south-west France, its abstracted and exaggerated form has proved hugely influential in art history.
Subsequently, more than 200 examples have been found distributed across much of Eurasia. Most date from the Gravettian period (26,000-21,000 years ago).
Few of these reside in private hands and none have appeared at auction in the UK in recent memory. The 6¼in (16cm) statue offered at the Antiquities sale held by TimeLine (27% buyer’s premium inc VAT) in Mayfair on November 30, came from a family collection where it had been since before 1960.
No find spot was provided but it belongs to the Venus of Willendorf type, with exaggerated breasts, buttocks and genitalia, no facial features and a coiffure, which have been found in France and Russia.
Estimated at £4000-6000, it sold at £90,000.