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Work Woman carrying a child in a cradle

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Levant

Woman carrying a child in a crib

© 2010 RMN / Franck Raux

Near Eastern Antiquities

Iselin Claire

The first terra-cotta figurines appeared in Cyprus during the Chalcolithic period (3000-2300 BC). In the Early Bronze Age (2300-2000 BC), they took the form of flat clay plaques with incised decoration. In the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1600 BC), they begin to show evidence of modeling and to diversify in form with the appearance of women carrying children, who represented concepts such as femininity, maternity, and child care.

A mother and child

This female figurine resembles the plank figurines of the preceding period, but now the arms and breasts are rendered in relief. The woman holds in her arms a swaddled infant on a hooped cradleboard. These cradleboards are characteristic of a particular school of Cypriot art, although they were also produced on other isolated occasions. The infant's head is always by the mother's left breast. Her thick neck is not clearly differentiated from the head, which has a nose in relief, holes for eyes, and large ears apparently pierced for earrings. The incised lines between neck and bosom may represent necklaces, while marks behind the right shoulder perhaps suggest clothing. An identical female figure with a child in her arms adorns the shoulder of a jug from Cyprus in the Louvre collection. Both seem intended as representations of maternity.

Female figurines in Cyprus

Although their precise origins are often unknown, the Louvre series of these female figures, which first make their appearance in the Chalcolithic period (3000-2300 BC), is of great interest. The necropolis at Vounous yielded numerous examples for the Early Bronze Age (2300-2000 BC). In the Early and Middle Bronze Ages, these figurines were made by hand and often covered in polished red slip; they were sometimes decorated with incised or relief motifs, the technique giving its name to what is called Red Polished Ware. In the Middle Bronze Age, the schematic forms of these rectangular plank-shaped figures progress towards a certain realism: the legs and arms are modeled, while the body takes on a certain thickness. The female figures bearing children in their arms date from this period, as do the figures of infants alone in their cradle. These figurines, which become more numerous in the Late Bronze Age (1600-1050 BC), are probably expressions of the idea of fertility.


Caubet Annie, Karageorghis Vasos, Yon Marguerite (sous la dir. de),
Les Antiquités de Chypre : âge du bronze, musée du Louvre,
département des Antiquités orientales, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1981, coll. "Notes et documents des musées de France, 2", pp. 16-17, CKY 21.
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, p. 36, n 16.
Caubet Annie, Fournier Sabine, Queyrel Anne (sous la dir. de),
L'Art des modeleurs d'argile : antiquités de Chypre, coroplastique,
musée du Louvre, département des Antiquités orientales, vol. 1, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1998, p. 45, n 9.
Deesses, Diosas, Goddesses. Imagines, femeninas del Mediterraneo
de la prehistoria al mundo romano, Barcelone, Museu d'Historia de la Ciutat, 21 juin-5 novembre 2000, p. 29.
Les Antiquités Orientales : Guide du visiteur, Paris, musée du Louvre, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1993, p. 171.

Technical description

  • Woman carrying a child in a crib

    Middle Bronze Age (2000-1600 BC)

  • Hand-modelled terracotta with red slip (Red Polished IV)

    H. 16 cm; W. 7.70 cm; D. 4 cm

  • Acquired by Geladakis, 1908 , 1908

    AM 1459

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Room 300
    Display case 2: The Early and Middle Bronze Ages. Clay work: pottery and terracotta

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