This attractive ceramic sculpture is a votive figure from the middle of the first millennium BC, and represents a deity in the Phoenician pantheon. It shows a goddess standing on an unusually tall integral pedestal base (about one third of the total height of the piece), dressed in a long robe that covers the back of the ornate hair and stretches down to the ground. Her face is partially obscured by calcareous concretions (which can be removed if required), but the delicate modelling of her features can still be seen. Her hair is long, hanging to the shoulders, and her toes can just be seen protruding from the hem of her long robe. Her left hand is on her breast, her right raised in a gesture of benediction. The breasts are unusually prominent – they are typically obscured by textile and in any case much smaller – and the stomach is also very large. These characteristics of pregnancy are not uncommon in votive figures but the finesse with which the figure has been rendered is unusual. Examples in the main reference text for Phoenician art are typically very crude and purely notional fertility charms. This, by contrast, has true artistry. Her upright stance and austere pose are reminiscent of the Archaic Period Greek statues which the Phoenicians inspired, and with which this piece is roughly contemporary. 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 appropriate for figures designed for shrines.
Ancient Near East