Southern Arabia, around modern day Yemen, Sabaean people, ca. late 1st millennium BCE to early 1st millennium CE. An incredibly rare alabaster figure of a woman, shown standing, wearing a calf-length, unadorned dress. Her face is stylized, with wide, almond-shaped, staring eyes inlaid with shell. Similar examples have inlaid black stone, often obsidian, for irises. Her eyebrows are incised, her nose and mouth small. She has a broad face, with carefully carved hair made to resemble tight curls that fall down to her shoulders. Her arms are bent at ninety degrees at the elbow, with her hands held out in tight fists before her body. Her feet are bare, part of an integrated flat platform. Size: 3.8" W x 10.45" H (9.7 cm x 26.5 cm); 10.65" H (27.1 cm) on included custom stand.
During the first millennium BCE, this part of the world saw several kingdoms - Qataban, Saba (Sheba), and Himyar - emerge that had built their wealth upon desert trade and in particular frankincense and myrrh. The people of these kingdoms created many figural representations from alabaster and similar stones, many of which were flat panels with high relief faces depicting the dead and made to mark tombs. It is much rarer to find full three-dimensional statues like this one, clearly intended to be viewed from all angles. They seem to have been made to be placed into tombs as votive offerings - acts of piety, designed to invoke the favor of a god, but also serving as public displays of wealth and status. Today they are fascinating not only for their haunting, clearly ancient beauty, but also for giving us an idea of what hair and clothing would have looked like in the past.
See a similar example at Christie's that sold in 2012 for $56,250: https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/ancient-art-antiquities/a-south-arabian-alabaster-figure-of-yahmi-il-5567191-details.aspx
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection
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