Venus on Trial

Venus on Trial (German: Venus vor Gericht) is a 1941 German drama film directed by Hans H. Zerlett and starring Hannes Stelzer, Hansi Knoteck, and Paul Dahlke. The film was part of the Nazis' campaign against 'degenerate art', and depicts the trial of a young artist who has resisted the trend towards it.[1]

Venus on Trial
Directed byHans H. Zerlett
Produced byOttmar Ostermayr
Written byHans H. Zerlett
Music byLeo Leux
CinematographyOskar Schnirch
Edited byGottlieb Madl
Distributed byBavaria Film
Release date
4 June 1941
Running time
90 minutes

The film was made by Bavaria Film at their Emelka Studios in Munich. The film's sets were designed by the art directors Max Seefelder, Hans Sohnle and Wilhelm Vorwerg.


The film is set in the 1920s. Peter Brake, a sculptor, believes modern art to be decadent. He creates a neoclassical-style statue of Venus, which he then buries in a Bavarian field in order to protect the identity of Charlotte, the woman who modelled for it. When it is dug up, experts believe that Venus vom Acker ('Venus of the Fields') is an ancient statue made by Praxiteles.

Peter is unable to prove that he is the creator of the statue, as the only person able to verify his claim is the model. He tries to keep her out of the matter, as she is now a respectable housewife. Ultimately, however, she decides to come forward as a witness.


Role as propaganda

The character of Peter Brake may be loosely based on Arno Breker, whose work was endorsed by the Nazi authorities.[2]

The filmmakers used sculptures that had been seized by the government, including Ernst Kirchner's Das Paar ('The Couple'), Otto Freundlich's Kopf (Head), and Marg Moll's Tanzerin (Dancer), as props.[2][3]

The art experts who misidentify Brake's sculpture are all coded as effete, homosexual or Jewish, etc.[3] Susan Felleman suggests that the film's attempt at propaganda were weak, finding that its portrayals of a 'decadent' Berlin nightlife and the character of Benjamin Hecht (a Jewish art dealer) significantly more interesting than those Brake and his circle.[3]


  1. Hake p. 59–60
  2. Jacobs, Steven. (2017). Screening Statues : Sculpture in Film. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-1-4744-1091-5. OCLC 1063797549.
  3. Felleman, Susan, author. Real objects in unreal situations : modern art in fiction films. ISBN 978-1-78320-250-8. OCLC 875151757.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)


  • Hake, Sabine. Popular Cinema of the Third Reich. University of Texas Press, 2001.
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