Persia, Parthian Empire, ca. 2nd to 3rd century CE. An exquisite pair of 18K gold earrings, each depicting a faceless nude female who presents a voluptuous body with an ample belly, her navel and pubic triangle carefully delineated, curvaceous thighs, and petite feet. What's more, her hands are placed upon her hips so as to further accentuate her femininity. Notice that her visage is covered with a plaited coiffure that extends over the crown of her head and flows to each side of her torso. Her head is further adorned by a pair of granules above and large spiraled earrings. Arched ear wires join the back of her head to the cube-shaped terminal upon which her feet, delineated in relief, rest. A lovely example of the ancient Parthian peoples' luxury arts. Size: 1" H (2.5 cm); 8.1 grams
The Parthians amassed their wealth via extensive trade networks, and this made it possible to patronize the arts. In addition to sculpture, ceramics, and coins, jewelry was among the favored luxury arts.
In addition to being created from sumptuous 18K gold, these earrings are particularly intriguing for their iconography. Just how are we to interpret these faceless female forms? Without any written documents, just who these earrings were intended to represent is difficult to say. Furthermore, there is absolutely no emphasis on the individualized features of their faces - we see no eyes, ears, noses, or mouths - only the numerous plaits of hair which serve to camouflage these. Given that the most conspicuous elements of these females' physiques are their pubic regions and by extension wombs, perhaps we are to infer that the artisan of these earrings was aiming to represent the child rearing capacity of womanhood - creating a Parthian "Venus figure" intended to represent women as the great primogenitors of humankind.
See a similar pair, though with delineated faces, in no. 247 E. Quarantelli, et. al., La Terra Tra I Due Fiumi.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Christie's, New York (Ancient Jewelry, Sale 2771, December 13, 2013, Lot 319); ex-private New York, USA collection; ex-Francesca Artuner, Brussels; ex-P.N. Barbier, Belgium, 1981
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