024 Female Idol ("fertility goddess") - LEVANT

024 Female Idol ("fertility goddess") - LEVANT

H: 27.5 cm (with tang: 30.7 cm)
Allegedly from Syria, though Central-South Lebanon more likely
Mountain Culture of Central-South Lebanon
c. 2000 B.C. (or slightly thereafter)

Ex collection: Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Stafford (1955-1986)

Solid-cast head up by the lost wax process, a flat, transverse rectangular tang under the feet with a round hole for affixing to a stand. The male figures were made up of separately fashioned pieces of wax assembled before being solid-cast [1]; though the female figures are considered to have been made in one piece [2], both arms of this statue from just below the shoulders to the point where they reach the body were modelled separately in wax before casting. Head and neck were likewise possibly modelled separately. A very porous cast with some poor cold-working, for example the right unfinished eyebrow and the slit of the mouth. Her hollow eyes formerly inlaid.

Condition: surface fairly rough, a few holes here and there due to the molten metal being unalloyed and possibly cooled too fast. A blow to the upper right cheek. The patina varying shades of darkish green to blackish olive green, the metal a reddish copper where it shows through, and deposits of dark brown earth.

Her long hairdo with two braids across the forehead covers the back of her head and neck ending below the shoulder-blades in a straight line with two longer central plaits.

She wears a skirt with ten oblique fringes down the right side held up by a cord from which hang several plaited cords. Though the torso is usually naked, in this case as with one of the figures from Kafer Chouba in Istanbul [3] there is what Seyrig sees as a guilloche neckline indicating that they may have worn a tight-fitting dress [4]. She is shod in what appear to be thick-soled leather slippers slightly upturned at the big toe and with a thick rim at the ankles.

She is said to have been found in Syria with the male figure in Geneva [5] and another male figure in Copenhagen [6], we rather doubt this Syrian provenance and believe with Seyrig that Lebanon is far more likely, though the difference in distance
is minimal.

They belong to what is known as "The Lebanese Mountain Group" of which all the statuettes were discovered fortuitously thus lacking a scientific archaeological context. The first recorded figure was in the collection of the Comte de Caylus [7] already in 1752. It is a statuette similar to ours [8]. In the intervening time, the odd find has added to the group which already numbered thirty-one when Seyrig published his article. Twenty-four are reputed to come from Lebanon, two come from Kafer Chouba (Syria).

They all bear a distant relationship with other groups of bronzes such as those from Tell Judeideh, Ras Shamra/Ugarit, and certain Syro-Anatolian and Phoenician figures. However, they are a particular sculptural production in their own right.

The figures of almost pure copper [9] were probably cast of metal that came from Cyprus. Both the size and heaviness of the statuettes attest to the wealth of these mountain people acquired from the forests they exploited and the commercial routes to the coastal cities which they controlled from their heights. A sort of archaic stiffness in the statues reflects that they were a somewhat backward society.

About twice as many male figures have been found as females, suggesting that at the time the male enjoyed both as a mortal and as a god a higher social position. They have been sometimes found in pairs and the male figure is always taller than his companion. It is possible that either the statuette in Geneva or in Copenhagen was the counterpart to the present figure.

Their function was religious [10] and they probably fulfilled the role of cult statues, gods and goddesses, though they may have been votive offerings: the males holding spears indicating warriors, and the females holding one hand to the breast and the other over the stomach indicating, despite their relatively flat bodies, that they are fecundity images. Thus, they might have been votive offerings to a cult image that could have been made of wood in several sections [11].

Exhibited and Published:
Odyssey of an Art Collector, cat. no. 5, pp. 146, 34-35 ill.

Gjødesen, M.: Deus ex Machina, MeddelGlypt 8, 1951,
pp. 25-26, fig.10-11.
Seyrig, H.: Statuettes trouvées dans les montagnes du Liban, Syria 30, 1953, no. IV, pp. 30, 33, 39-42.
Negbi, O.: Canaanite Gods in Metal, (Tel Aviv, 1976), cat. no. 1560, pp. 70, 180.

Seeden, H.: The Standing Armed Figurines in the Levant, PBF I, (Munich, 1980), p. 15 n. 25.

1 Seyrig, H.: Syria 30, 1953, pp. 31-33; endorsed by Seeden, H.: PBF I, 1, p. 14.

2 Seyrig, H.: op. cit., p. 33, with the exception of his nos. III and VII.

3 Istanbul Museum 4513: Seyrig, H.: op. cit., no. V,
p. 30 pl. XI, 4.

4 In Egyptian art feminine figures sometimes, as here, give the impression of being bare-breasted, when in fact they are wearing tight-fitting dresses; in the present case, though unlikely, the neckline could represent a necklace.

5 Musée d'Art et d'Histoire: Seyrig, H.: op. cit., no. 15, p. 29, acquired c. 1948 (32.7 cm; 35.7 cm with tang).

6 Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek: Gjødesen, M.: MeddelGlypt 8, 1951 fig. 4-7. - Seyrig, H.: loc. cit., no. 16 (36 cm; 39.5 cm with tang).

7 Reputedly found in Egypt (probably untrue), given by Caylus to Louis XV and in the Cabinet des Médailles of the Bibliothèque Nationale. Published in the Recueil d'Antiquités égyptiennes, étrusques, grecques et romaines (Paris, 1752).

8 The smaller (17.7 cm) Caylus example holds her right breast with her left hand and her right hand is placed on her stomach, the exact reverse.

9 Tin was too rare and precious for the coastal cities to let them have any which explains the imperfect casting.

10 Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian "Middle Bronze Age deposits prove that the cult of a war god and a fertility goddess was widespread" (Negbi, O.: Canaanite Gods in Metal, p. 141).

11 Seyrig, H.: op. cit., p. 47, who further suggests that the most unusual technique of modelling the wax by sections for most of the statuettes may have derived from this wood technology.