Southern Arabian Head of a Woman
circa 100 B.C. – 100 A.D.
SOUTHERN ARABIA (100 B.C. – 100 A.D.)
H: 28.30 cm (11.14 inches)
A magnificent funerary head of a woman from Qataban, depicted with wonderfully stylized features. The nose is slender, and the small lips are gently smiling. The ears are positioned high on the head and the neck is long and elegant, possibly as a sign of the woman’s beauty. The high cheekbones have been subtly carved. The large, deeply recessed eyes and thin eyebrows would have once been inlaid. The top and back of the head are flat for insertion into a funerary niche or stela and the front has been polished to enhance the quality of the alabaster. The coiffure would have once been completed with plaster, which would have helped secure the head in place. Such heads are often referred to as being U-shaped. The people of South Arabia developed a unique visual culture which, thanks to its ingenious use of geometric and stylized forms, appears resolutely modern to our contemporary eyes. South Arabian artists notably excelled in carving beautiful funerary portraits in alabaster. The present head is a particularly delightful example of sculpture from the Classical period. Its style is characteristic of the funerary portraits found in Hayd ibn Aqil, the necropolis of Qataban’s capital Timna.