I’ve heaped a good bit of criticism onto Valentino and its design duo of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli in the past, and I’m not the only person in the industry who has some questions about the direction of the brand and the aesthetic merit of the pieces it’s turning out. Particularly when you consider that the duo are accessories designers by trade, the bags have been a bit disappointing.

But every now and then, the brand still shows that it knows how to get things done. The Valentino Aphrodite Python Bag is all that it should be – ladylike, luxurious, on-trend and extremely elegant.

This bag builds on the Aphrodite shape that Valentino introduced last season, but with a slightly smaller size and more right angles. The buttery, perfectly beige leather is still there, but this time it’s used to accent navy and beige python that is some of the best of the season’s trend toward snakeskin. Possibly related: I didn’t like very many of Fall 2011’s snakeskin bags, so this is possibly a big compliment, if you put any stock in my personal taste. And if you don’t, it probably doesn’t say much. Either way, this is still a very pretty handbag. Buy through Saks for $2895.

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