The Venus of Brassempouy (French: la Dame de Brassempouy "Lady of Brassempouy" or Dame à la Capuche "Lady with the Hood") is a fragmentary ivory figurine from the Upper Palaeolithic which was discovered at Brassempouy, France in 1892. About 25,000 years old, it is one of the earliest known realistic representations of a human face.
The Grotte du Pape was first explored by P.E. Dubalen in 1881, then by J. de Laporterie and Édouard Piette (1827–1906) from 1894 onwards. Since archaeological excavation techniques were only starting to develop at that time, not much attention was paid to the stratigraphy of the site containing the remains, which were pillaged and disturbed almost beyond reconstruction in connection with a field trip of amateurs from the Association française pour l’avancement de la science in 1892. Nevertheless, Piette described layers attributed to the late and middle Solutrean. He termed the bottom levels he reached as éburnéen, in reference to the copious amounts of ivory they contained. Modern reanalysis of the site has been undertaken under the direction of Henri Delporte, 1981–2000.
In 1894, one of those strata, today recognised as Gravettian, yielded several fragments of female statuettes, including the "Lady with the Hood". Piette saw the figures as closely related with the representations of animals of the Magdalenian and developed a hypothetical chronology that was later refuted by Henri Breuil.
Randall White observed in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory (December 2006 ), "The figurines emerged from the ground into a colonial intellectual and socio-political context nearly obsessed with matters of race." Although the style of representation is essentially realistic, the proportions of the head do not correspond exactly to any known human population of the present or past. Since the mid-twentieth century interpretative questions have shifted from race to matters concerning womanhood and fertility, White has noted.
She is more or less contemporary with the other Palaeolithic Venus figurines, such as those of Lespugue, Dolní Věstonice, Willendorf, etc. Nonetheless, she is distinguished among the group by the realistic character of the representation.
At Brassempouy itself, a variety of objects excavated in the Grotte du Pape are on display at the Maison de la Dame. This exhibition space, primarily devoted to the archaeology of the region, also contains a fine set of casts of palaeolithic sculptures, including the nine existing specimens from Brassempouy, but also the well-known figures from Lespugue, Willendorf and Dolní Věstonice, as well as the Mal'ta Venus, and the Grimaldi Venus.