This sinuously elegant ceramic sculpture is a votive figure from the middle of the first millennium BC, and represents a deity in the Phoenician pantheon. It is very unusual for various reasons. Firstly, most goddess figures of this sort are framed by their long robes, whereas this figure is either naked or her raiment is so far pushed back that she is essentially nude. She is standing full-square on a plain integrated base, with either a column (or perhaps the robe) at her back to add stability to the figure. Her legs are straight, the divide between the thighs and the abdomen clearly defined. The abdomen is extremely prominent (even the navel is delineated), as are the breasts. The maternal identity of the person portrayed is hard to repudiate – even the standard “benediction” pose of the right hand is absent, both hands supporting the breasts. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the piece is the headwear. Most Phoenician pieces are attired in a manner more related to the classical tradition than any more ancient inspiration, with a robe that passes over the head and drops to the feet. Yet in the current case the figure is clearly wearing an Egyptian headdress, which betrays one of the Phoenicians’ great sources of inspiration but that is rarely seen in such detail. The face is simply yet effectively rendered, with a strong nose, a sharp chin and light brows. 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, which is appropriate for figures destined for shrines. The piece retains some calcareous concretions from its long interment in the Mediterranean.
Ancient Near East