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: Bust of a Woman

Bust of a Woman

Portrait bust
Historical period(s)
300 BCE -99 CE
Calcite travertine
H x W x D: 22.4 x 14.7 x 9 cm (8 13/16 x 5 13/16 x 3 9/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn to the Smithsonian Institution
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
Head of a female, carved from transluscent alabaster. Highly modelled, probably meant to be viewed only from the front. The facial features are rendered in detail. The eyes and eyebrows are recessed to receive inlay. The ears lie flat against the head, with some schematic incised interior detail. The nose is straight, with slight indication of nostrils, and the mouth is represented by a thin grooved incision between two modelled lips. The hair is represented as parallel grooves which radiate from the head on square background field. The head rests on a straight, semicyclindrical neck which is perpendicular to head under chin.
Numerous often stylized memorial portraits have been excavated in the cemeteries of Southern Arabia, mainly in the Wadi Beihan and the area of the ancient Qataban Empire (modern Yemen) that flourished between the 5th century BCE and the 1st century CE. Close parallels to this head are in the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History where the remainder of the Hirshhorn collection is today. An updated bibliography on alabaster statues and fragments found throughout modern Yemen can be found in Sabina Antonini, and Mounir Arbach, La statuaria sudarabica in pietra. Rome and Paris (2001). This head stems most likely from the vast cemeteries of ancient Tamna.

To 1966
Joseph H. Hirshhorn (1899-1981). [1]

From 1966 to 1986
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. [2]

From 1986
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, transferred from Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. [3]


[1] See document from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, object file, Collections Management Office. For further discussion, see also Curatorial Remark 4 in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See note 1. See also object file, Collections Management Office.

Former owner
Joseph H. Hirshhorn
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
On View Location
Currently not on view
Sculpture, Stone
portrait, woman, WWII-era provenance, Yemen
Collection(s) Area
Ancient Near Eastern Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

The Freer|Sackler is currently closed for renovations, updates, and gallery reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Please join us for our weekend-long reopening celebration on October 14 and 15, 2017.