Back to browse highlights

Figure of a reclining woman

ca. 2nd century B.C.–2nd century A.D.
Mesopotamia, said to be from Ctesiphon
Alabaster (gypsum)
2 7/8 in. (7.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Wolfe Expedition, Purchase, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Gift, 1886
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This alabaster figurine is of a nude woman reclining on her left side. Her left arm, which would have supported her body, is missing. The right arm is extended along her side, with the tips of her fingers resting lightly on her thigh. Faint bands at the woman's neck indicate creases; the subtle folds of flesh along the right side of the torso emphasize the full curves of her figure. Reclining figures are common among Greek terracottas, and the appearance of the posture in Mesopotamian sculpture may reflect the influence of Greek terracotta manufacturing centers along the eastern Mediterranean. The majority of Greek terracottas of this type are male, however, as are reclining figures depicted in Greco-Roman funerary reliefs. In Mesopotamia, the opposite is true: whether the figurine is fashioned of alabaster or terracotta, the subject is usually a woman. While the treatment of the body and graceful pose of the present sculpture undeniably betray Hellenistic influence, the creases at the neck, the drilled navel, and the voluptuous form are elements of an established local tradition.

  • Provenance

    Acquired by the Museum in 1886, purchased from the Reverend William Hayes Ward who bought it in London on his return from the Wolfe Expedition to Assyria and Babylonia (1884-1885).

  • Exhibition History

    "The Year One: Art of the Ancient World East and West," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 3, 2000–January 14, 2001.

  • References

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1895. The stone sculptures of the Cesnola collection of Cypriote antiquities in Halls 5 and 3. Handbook no. 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 1195 1/2, pp. 78-79.

    von der Osten, Hans H. 1926. "Seven Parthian Statuettes." The Art Bulletin 8 (3), p. 173, figs. 4 and 5.

    Evans, Jean M. 2000. The Year One: Art of the Ancient World East and West, exh. cat. edited by Elizabeth J. Milleker. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 90, pp. 118-119.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History