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Work Goblet decorated with the face of a goddess

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Levant

Gobelet à visage féminin

© 2005 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault

Near Eastern Antiquities
Levant

Author(s):
Caubet Annie

This goblet is decorated with a female face in relief. She is shown wearing cosmetics, and her face is framed with curls. It was found in the tomb of a wealthy woman from Ugarit, the capital of a Syrian kingdom in the second millennium BC. It would have been part of the deceased woman's toilet articles and represents a goddess of fertility who protected women and their power of seduction.

A technique designed to resemble precious stones

In Oriental archeology, the term "earthenware" refers to objects made of sand and lime that were then coated with a glaze (of molten galss) colored with the oxides of metals such as copper, manganese, and iron. The result is obviously meant to resemble precious stones that were much sought-after in antiquity, lapis lazuli and turquoise in particular. The technique was used to produce all sorts of precious items such as small boxes, jewelry, and amulets. The different techniques perfected in Egypt, the Levant, and Mesopotamia from the third millennium BC were particularly widespread during the second millennium BC, when they came to represent one of the principal artistic features of the palace civilization.

The face of the goddess

The conical goblet on a pedestal base is decorated with a molded relief on one side. Against the side of the goblet painted black, a female face stands out. The enormous eyes, heavily ringed with black, are topped by thick eyebrows that join above the nose. The large pupils give the face a very lively expression. The hair is painted as bands of yellow, with a few black curls lying on the cheeks and forehead, standing out stark against the pale complexion. The neck is ringed with bands of color like necklaces. Other similar pieces exist, including faience pendants in the form of female faces with large eyes, gold jewelry, and ivory plaques, originally inset in pieces of furniture, where the faces are sometimes shown framed by a window. The gold jewelry now in the Louvre gives a clear indication of the significance of these objects. A gold or silver necklace would be strung with both a pendant in the shape of a face and medallions depicting naked goddesses and astral symbols. This indicates that the face is that of the great Oriental goddess of fertility, associated with the planet Venus, represented alternately in human and in astral form, just like the Roman goddess Venus. She is a symbol of women's power of attraction over men. Known by various names in different regions, including Ishtar, Astarte, or, in Ugarit, Anat, she was particularly worshipped by the women of Ugarit, who liked to see her image in the precious objects they kept by them in life and in death.

Bibliography



Technical description

  • Gobelet à visage féminin

    XIVe siècle avant J.-C.

    Minet el Beida, port d'Ougarit, tombe 6

  • Fritte de quartz à glaçure polychrome

    H. : 16,20 cm. ; D. : 8,60 cm.

  • Fouilles C. Schaeffer-G. Chenet, 1932 , 1932

    AO 15725

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Levant: coastal Syria, Ugarit, and Byblos
    Room 301
    Vitrine 6

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