Sumerian Alabaster Female Worshipper

Near Eastern · Sumerian, 2600-2400 B.C.




lapis lazuli


H: 8 cm (3.1 in)





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The head and the upper torso belonged to a statuette representing a female worshipper, standing or seated and dressed in a long garment. Her long hair is arranged in an elaborate hairstyle and bound by a broadband. Her remarkable face is oval in shape and is perfectly structured with a strong chin, thin lips, large nose, and high cheekbones. The wide-open eyes are surmounted by long arching eyebrows. Rich polychromy, resulting from the use of contrasting materials, makes the figure look almost life-like: intense blue lapis lazuli was used for the inlaid eyes, bitumen formerly filled the incisions for the brows.

The female worshipper’s expression, almost “smiling,” demonstrates her inner spirit and joy. The prominent eyes outlined by long eyebrows seem to express the woman’s wonder at the deity and the adoration felt by the faithful towards the superior being. The woman is dressed in the so-called kaunakes, a tufted garment draping over her left shoulder, which was probably the archetypal ceremonial garment in the Mesopotamian Bronze Age. A large number of male and female figurines were commissioned and dedicated to various deities as a testimony of their faith. They were arranged in the temples for a constant presence near the deity.


Surface weathered, covered with dark deposits; some encrustation in places; chips along with the breaks, on the left shoulder and the lower back of hairstyle; a crack crossing the chest.


Art Market, prior 1950s;

Ex- Joseph Ziadé collection, Lebanon, the 1950s;

Imported to the US, 6 March 2001.


Phoenix Ancient Art Catalogue 2020/39, no. 14

Museum Parallels

The British Museum

London, UK

Museum of Fine Arts

Boston, Massachusetts

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York, New York