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A carved limestone statuette of a standing female with her hands clasped at her waist; complex hairstyle with brow-band, robe with fringed edge to the left shoulder passing under the right arm, strap to the right shoulder; hollow eyes to accept separate shell inserts, socket to the underside. 282 grams, 92mm (3 3/4").

Condition Fine condition.

Provenance Private collection, London, UK; formed 1970s-1980s.

Published Accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate.

Literature Cf. Aruz, J. Art of the First Cities. The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus, New York, 2003, item 28.

Footnotes Religion played a major role in Mesopotamian society and especially affairs of state. The municipal and economic organisation of a city was the responsibility of the temple, with its hierarchical priesthood in which was vested an authority almost equal to that of the ruler and his advisory council of elders. Accordingly, in the early days of Sumer and Babylonia, architectural attention was paid primarily to religious buildings, and all sculpture served religious purposes. Figures such as these were placed in the courtyards of temples to act as a permanent presence before the deity so that the donor could perpetually offer prayers. After a certain period of time they were then buried beneath the floors of the temples so that they were still within the sacred territory of the god. The votive statues are of various sizes and usually carved in gypsum or limestone. They depict men wearing fringed or tufted fleece skirts, and women wearing fringed or tufted dresses draped over one shoulder. Many have inlaid eyes and painted hair. The statues are usually carved with the hands clasped, right over left, at the chest or waist in a gesture of attentiveness. Some figures hold cups or branches of vegetation.

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