The representation of a human face is worked as a plaque, with the back left unworked; it was intended to be placed into a niche hollowed in the stela. The typical U-shaped face includes the long neck, but not the ears or hair. In some cases, the insertion was filled with plaster on which the ears and hair were traced. The square face is dominated by the large, almond-shaped eyes placed directly under the arched eyebrows which meet the bridge of the long and protruding nose. It is slightly asymmetrical, the lower proper left half is wider that the right one, which gives a more individual feature to the highly schematic manner of the design. The cheeks are plastically modeled. A very small mouth carved in low relief is contrasting to the sharp shape of the long nose. As no beard or mustaches are indicated, the rounded lips of the small mouth and a very delicate and smooth outline of the chin may suggest that this is a female representation.    The great variety of human representations, masculine and feminine, in South Arabian art is remarkable; aside from statuettes, both seated and standing, one finds stelae in low and high relief and heads with long necks mounted on a base. Their exact significance is unknown. The fact that the great majority of these objects come from necropoleis and the frequent, but by no means obligatory, presence of inscriptions on their bases clearly indicate that they were portraits of the deceased, placed near the tomb. The inscriptions, in the South Arabian script, always document the name of the person represented and that of the clan that he/she belonged to. Among the statues found, there have also been portraits of kings, recognizable thanks to the inscriptions.    The art of South Arabia was produced as early as the 8th century B.C. by a number of ancient kingdoms located in the area of modern-day Yemen. Figurative and decorative art of the region includes indigenous types and styles that are, in earlier times, influenced by the arts of Egypt or Mesopotamia, and later by Hellenistic Greece and Rome. South Arabian art is well-known not only for its distinctive statues of human figures but sculptures of animals such as bulls, antelopes and ibexes. These were carved both free-standing and in relief, and usually made of alabaster or limestone. Ancient civilizations may have associated alabaster, a translucent and cream-colored stone, with sunlight. The ancient Arabian kingdoms flourished until the 5th century A.D. as a result of agricultural wealth and trade of precious commodities, most importantly frankincense and myrrh, with the civilizations of Egypt, the Near East, and the Hellenistic and Roman empires. Other commercial goods, such as spices and fragrances, were produced in South Arabia, and the region played a key role in the trade of products from Africa, the Persian Gulf, and India.    CONDITION  Complete; no restoration; natural cracking of alabaster; old scratches; soil deposits in places.    PROVENANCE  Ex- collection of the artist Gérard Drouillet (1946-2011), Eygalières, South of France, acquired ca. 1967;  Ex- Mrs. B. private collection, Geneva, Switzerland.    BIBLIOGRAPHY  ALI IBRAHIM AL-GHABBAN et al., eds.,  Roads to Arabia, archaeology and history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , Paris, 2010, p. 322, nos. 132-133.  CLEVELAND R.L.,  An Ancient South Arabian Necropolis, Objects from the Second Campaign (1951) in the Timna’ Cemetery,  Baltimore, 1965 .   DE MAIGRET A.,  Arabia Felix: un viaggio nell’archeologia dello Yemen , 1996.   Faces of Ancient Arabia, The Giraud and Carolyn Foster Collection of South Arabian Art , Baltimore, 2008,  pp. 41-67; 102-113.   Queen of Sheba, Treasures from Ancient Yemen,  London, 2002, pp. 196, 198-199, nos. 272, 277-278.   Yémen, au pays de la reine de Saba ,   Paris, 1997, pp. 150-173.    32288
prev / next