Seated female

Bronze Age
ca. late 3rd–early 2nd millennium B.C.
Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex
Steatite or chlorite, alabaster
3 1/2 x 3 3/4 in. (9 x 9.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Norbert Schimmel Trust, 1989
Accession Number:
1989.281.41a, b
  • Description

    Western Central Asia, now known as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and northern Afghanistan, has yielded objects attesting to a highly developed civilization in the late third and early second millennium B.C. Artifacts from the region indicate that there were contacts with Iran to the southwest.

    Among the few three-dimensional images assigned to this period in Central Asia are a group of stone female figures seated or squatting on a platform and wearing a robe decorated with a pattern, perhaps imitating sheep's fleece. They are always composite figures of soft green chlorite or steatite, with heads of white limestone. This example has a typical abstract form with an armless body and legs represented by a protruding ledge.

    Excavated examples of this figure type come from sites in Margiana in southern Turkmenistan, a possible center of their production. Similar seated females on cylinder seal impressions from southwestern Iran appear to depict royal figures. On compartmented stamp seals from western Central Asia, a possible version of the female figure appears where she is sometimes flanked by or seated upon animals or mythical creatures. These attributes could indicate a divine quality.

  • Provenance

    By 1977, known on the art market (P. Amiet, "Bactriane Proto-historique", Syria 54, 1977, pp. 89-121, pl. III); by 1983, on loan by Norbert Schimmel to the Museum (L.1983.119.21); acquired by the Museum in 1989, gift of Norbert Schimmel Trust.

  • Exhibition History

    "Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, May 8–August 17, 2003.

  • References

    Amiet, Pierre. 1977. "Bactriane Proto-historique." Syria 54, pp. 101-103, pl. III.

    Pittman, Holly. 1984. Art of the Bronze Age: Southeastern Iran, Western Central Asia, and the Indus Valley. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 50-51, fig. 22.

    Muscarella, Oscar W. 1992. "Statuette of a Seated Female." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 49 (4), Ancient Art: Gifts from the Norbert Schimmel Collection (Spring 1992), p. 20.

    Muscarella, Oscar W. 2003. "Composite seated female figures." In Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus, exh. cat. edited by Joan Aruz, with Ronald Wallenfels. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 259b, pp. 367-368.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History