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Lot 0241
**Originally Listed At $1000**

Ancient Near East, Southern Arabia, modern-day Yemen, Qatabanian culture, ca. 3rd century BCE to 1st century CE. A finely-preserved example of an idol head, hand-carved from creamy white stone which has taken on the orange-brown color of the earth in which it was buried. The head, likely from a larger standing figure, presents with a stocky neck accentuated with a trio of incised grooves which tapers to a faint double-chin, full lips, incised almond-shaped eyes with drilled pupils beneath raised brows, and corkscrew-shaped ears, all beneath a plateaued top. The eyes were perhaps inlaid with decorative material, and their wide, attentive stare was common throughout the ancient Near East as a sign of religious devotion. Size: 1.5" W x 2.9" H (3.8 cm x 7.4 cm); 4.1" H (10.4 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 limestone, alabaster, and similar stones, many of which were flat panels with high relief faces depicting the dead and made to mark tombs. It is of much greater rarity to find three-dimensional sculptures like this one, even if only fragmentary, which were clearly intended to be viewed from all angles. They were most likely 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.

For a stylistically-similar example of a head attached to a full figure, please see The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 1982.317.3: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/326695

Another stylistically-similar example of just a head, of a larger size, hammered for $10,625 at Christie's, New York Antiquities auction (sale 1915, December 6, 2007, lot 80)

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Frances Artuner collection, Belgium, acquired in the 1960s

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#146210

Condition

This is a fragment of a larger sculpture. Minor chips and abrasions to neck, eyes, ears, and top, with encrustations and surface yellowing commensurate with age. Nice earthen deposits throughout.

Starting Bid

$850

Buyer's Premium

  • 24.5%

South Arabian Qatabanian Stone Idol Head

Estimate $2,000 - $3,000Closed 363 Lots Ago
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