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Goddess

© 2001 RMN / Franck Raux

Near Eastern Antiquities
Levant

Author(s):
Benoît Nicolas

This statue, known as the Lady of Trikomo, dates from the mid-6th century BC. In all probability it is a statue of the High Goddess of Cyprus. The richly decorated statue is coiffed with a wreath of plants and is holding a flower to her chest in accordance with the local iconographic tradition, which reveals archaic Greek and Oriental influences.

Cypriot style

In 1869, Tiburce Colonna-Ceccaldi, the then French consul in Cyprus, announced the discovery of an outstanding sculpture of a female torso near Trikomo, a small village in north-eastern Cyprus. Although the Lady of Trikomo is not perfectly preserved, the statue nonetheless remains one of the most representative examples of Cypriot sculpture of the archaic period. While the figure's slanting eyes and slight smile recall the features of contemporary Greek korai, the statue as a whole is radically different in style. The large body is solid and rather shapeless, with broad shoulders and small breasts placed far apart on the torso. The gown is tight-fitting and has no folds, unlike the Ionian fashion. A band of red pigment still visible on the upper part of the chest indicates that the statue was originally painted.

The statue's rich attire

The most striking feature of the Lady of Trikomo is her extravagantly rich attire, including the impressive wreath or kalathos she is wearing. Round her neck are four strings of beads strung with four discs, which she wears above three more bead necklaces, from which a square pendant hangs. On her chest are a further three bead necklaces linked by a central pendant. Her ears are hidden by traditional Cypriot jewelry in the shape of shells. Her wreath is made of interwoven leaves on a base decorated with a pattern which appears to represent flowerbuds. Her hair, which she wears loose down her back, is in the form of locks the same shape as the leaves on the wreath. The importance of the plant theme is reinforced by the flower which she is pressing to her breast with her right hand.

A statue of the High Goddess of Cyprus

The identity of the Lady of Trikomo was for a long time open to question, but has now been settled with near certainty. She is the earliest known example of a series of statues of female figures, coiffed with a kalathos, representing the High Goddess, the chief divinity of the Cypriot pantheon in the 1st millennium BC. The extravagant luxury of her attire, symbolizing female seductiveness, is associated with nature as a reminder of her role as the goddess of fertility and the rebirth of life after the winter. The Lady of Trikomo is the earliest example of an iconographic style particular to Cyprus, which also figured on certain local currencies and which was adopted throughout the island. Cyprus had many tiny rural shrines devoted to the goddess in addition to the major religious centers of Paphos and Amathontus. These small shrines played a key role in spreading this iconographic tradition. An inscription dating from the 3rd century BC indicates that there was one such shrine near Trikomo. The High Goddess was explicitly assimilated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite from the 4th century BC onwards. As a result, the local goddess tended to disappear, replaced by the Greek goddess, and at the same time, the iconographic tradition of which the Lady of Trikomo is the earliest known example gave way to nude or half-nude figures of Aphrodite, typical of the Hellenistic period, which drew on the classical Greek tradition.

Bibliography

Caubet Annie, Hermary Antoine, Karageorghis Vasos (sous la dir. de),
Art antique de Chypre au musée du Louvre : du chalcolithique à l'époque romaine, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1992, Athènes, Kapon, 1992, pp. 124-125, n 153.
Hermary Antoine, "Divinités chypriotes I", in Report of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, Nicosie, Department of Antiquities, 1982, pp. 164-173, pl. XXXVI-XXXVII.
Hermary Antoine, Catalogue des Antiquités de Chypre. Sculptures,
musée du Louvre, département des Antiquités orientales, avec un
avant-propos par Annie Caubet, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1989, p. 44, n 811.

Technical description

  • Goddess

    Cypro-Archaic II (mid-6th century BC)

    Trikomo, Cyprus

  • Limestone, traces of polychrome

    H: 97.5 cm; L: 47 cm; Depth: 24 cm

  • Colonna-Ceccaldi, 1870

    N 3497

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Levant: Cyprus, 9th–1st century BC
    Room 21

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