This unusually well-rendered and harmonious ceramic sculpture is a votive figure from the middle of the first millennium BC, and represents a Phoenician deity. Unusually, the piece has no integral base, and is superbly detailed with near-perfect preservation. It is a female (?) figure standing in a strikingly dynamic pose with the head slightly bowed and a half-smile on her lips. Her pose is normal, with her left hand on her abdomen and her right hand raised in a gesture of benediction. She is dressed in an atypical manner, with a long robe reaching from her head to the floor but casually opened in the centre to reveal her slightly flexed legs and bare torso; the absence of apparent breasts leads to ambiguity in sexing, although it should be noted that breasts are only ever emphasised in Phoenician fertility statues. Her stomach is slightly convex but not seemingly pregnant. The quality of the drapery is exquisite, as is the rendering of the carefully lidded eyes, the slight smile and the rounded curves of the forehead and cheeks. The general rendering is diagnostically Pre-Classical – rather austere and linear composition, with slightly naïve rendering of facial features – and reflects the archaic style of Greek sculpture that the Phoenicians inspired and with which this piece is contemporary. The piece still retains calcareous accretions (which can be removed if required), which attest to its long interment in the Mediterranean. The back of the piece is almost completely plain, implying that it was always meant to be viewed from the front rather than in the round: this is usual for figures designed for shrines.
Ancient Near East