[Ads-l] Venus Callipyga

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Thu Apr 22 08:44:10 UTC 2021

NY Times, Ap. 21, “What happened to Vikki Dougan? The Model Once Known as ‘The Back’…” reported she inspired a 1961 song that mentioned her “callipygian cleft.”
OED callipygian, adj. (with examples from 1831ff) etymology adds “Compare the following earlier attestations of the plural noun callipygae ( < post-classical Latin callipygae , feminine plural (1556 or earlier)):
1624   T. Heywood Γυναικεῖον vi. 297   From which time, euer after, the two young marryed wiues were called Callipygae.
1646   Sir T. Browne Pseudodoxia Epidemica iv. vi. 195   Callipygæ and women largely composed behinde.
With the form calipygean<https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/26445?redirectedFrom=callipygian#eid1173603050> compare -ean suffix<https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/58948#eid5896753>.

N.E.D. (1888) indicates that the phrase ‘Callipygian Venus’ was in use before 1800, but evidence is lacking.”
Maybe so, though close is John Breval, Remarks on several parts of Europe:
relating chiefly to their antiquities and history. Collected upon the spot in several tours since the year 1723… (London, 1738) p. 27 [GoogleBooks]:
One Temple there [in Sicily] was among the rest that deserves particular Notice, not so much upon the Account of its Dedication to Venus , by the very singular Epithet of Callipyga , (Pulchris natibus ornata ) as from the ( b ) Contest between two handsome Syracusian Sisters, to which it owed its Rise.
[footnote b includes:…]
It was upon this Occasion the young Man built the said Temple to Venus Callipyga. Athen. Lib. Xii.

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