The Toes of Venus

By CodingStrategies on October 20th, 2017

The goddess Venus was playing one day with Cupid’s arrows and wounded her bosom. Before it healed she beheld Adonis, and was captivated with him. She no longer took any interest in her favorite places, for such was the arrow’s magic that Adonis was dearer to her than anything else. During a brief absencefrom Venus, Adonis went hunting and wounded a wild boar that in turn killed him. Venus was distraught, but insisted that a memorial to her grief would live on. She sprinkled nectar on the spilled blood of Adonis, causing a flower of deep crimson to rise. Called Anemone or Wind Flower, it is said the wind firstblows the blossoms open, then carries the petals away. As a remembrance of the love between Venus and Adonis, the floweris both beautiful and short-lived. 

In Roman mythology, Venus was the goddess of love, pleasure and fertility, also known as the Daughter of Heaven and Sea.She is still seen as the bright, silvery morning or evening star, and is the brightest object in the sky after the sun and the moon.Many are the artists and sculptors who have tried to capture her ethereal beauty, including the famed “Birth of Venus” painting by Sandro Botticelli which was completed in the mid-1480s. Botticelli depicts his Venus arriving on the shore in a giant clamshell, fully grown at her birth. As was typical when conjuring the goddess of love, she is without garments.

The sculpture known as Venus de Milo was discovered in 1820 on the island of Melos (Milos in modern Greek). It was carved in approximately 150 BCE by Alexandros, a sculptor of Antioch. The Marquis de Rivière presented it to Louis XVIII, who donated it to the Louvre in 1821 where the statue won instant and lasting fame. Essentially two blocks of marble, it is comprised of several parts which were sculpted separately (bust, legs, left arm and foot) then fixed with vertical pegs, a technique which was fairly common in ancient Greece. The goddess originally wore metal jewelry (bracelet, earrings, and headband) of which only the fixation holes remain. Although the arms were never found, the curving figurearrests the goddess in time, while her draped clothing gives the Venus a demeanor of nobility.

But, even with her slight stoop, Venus de Milo is 6 feet 8 inches tall and primarily admired today for her imperfections. Her lack of arms makes her strange and dreamlike, although her missing arms are not her most interesting anatomical detail. For over 2000 years art historians have pored over nearly every inch of her curves, while missing her prominent second toes, which stick out past her shorter big toes. In fact, she is not the only example of sculptures with long second toes – there is also the bronze sculpture of the Boxer at Restand the marble Diana of Versailles, as well as the Barberini Faun.In fact, Leonardo da Vinci drew his famous Vitruvian Man withlong second toes that align perfectly with the circle drawn around him.

At the beginning of the 20th century, an American orthopedic surgeon named Dudley Morton named the phenomenon of having a longer second toe “Morton’s Toe.” Dr. Morton believed that this toe, which he also called Metatarsus atavicus, was a condition similar to color blindness (ICD-10-CM code H53.50), human tails (code Q76.49), and supernumerary nipples (code Q83.3). In addition, Dr. Morton hypothesized that these long secondary toes recalled a trait used by our distant ancestors so that they could more easily swing from trees.

And, while swinging from trees Like Tarzan might sound appealing, Morton’s Toe can unfortunately cause orthopedic problems such as bunions (subcategory M21.611-) and hammer toes (subcategory M20.4-). Some medical professionals have also suggested that theseodd long toes could also cause chronic myofascial pain (code M79.1) due to body weight being shifted to the ball of the foot rather than directly behind the sturdy big toe.

Although the name assigned by Morton refers to the second toe of the foot, it is more accurate to call the condition Morton’s foot(Morton’s metatarsalgia: subcategory G57.6-, Lesion of plantar nerve, lower limb), as the problem is caused by the first metatarsal bone in the foot being shorter than its neighbor. Between 15 to 20 percent of humans have this condition, which is also called a “Greek foot” by art historians. No matter what it’s called, people everywhere can visit museums around the world to find ancient representations of Morton’s Toe. Although barefoot Venus has no need for medical assistance, the rest of the population with elongated second toes (or shortened big toes) relies on corrective shoes, shoe inserts or pads to provide some relief from the effects of Greek foot.