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Home > Auctions > 1st December 2015 > Greek Hellenistic Statuette with South Arabian Inscription

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LOT 0014

GBP (£) 12,000 - 17,000
EUR (€) 14,210 - 20,130
USD ($) 15,320 - 21,700

6 3/4" (323 grams, 17cm).

A bronze statue of a standing naked young man, left hand holding genitals, left leg pulled back and bent at the knee; six lines of text in South Arabian script incised on the torso.

Property of a London gentleman; acquired by his father in the 1970s; thence by descent.

Accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate.

See Al-Salami, M.A. and Schulz, R. and Fleischer, R. Figurale Bronzen ägyptischer und griechisch-römischer Art vom Jabal al-'Awd, Jemen, Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2012; Ibb National Museum in Yemen, items MIbb 3 and 4.

Several bronze statues of Greco-Romano style, bearing South Arabian inscription, are known from excavations conducted in the area of modern-day Yemen. Probably the most famous example is an identical pair of Eros and lion, excavated in the late 1940s at the South gate of the city of Timna by W.Philips. Other examples include bronze statues found at Jabal Al-Awd, notably the bust of Athena with incised inscription over the neck, and the sphinx with incised inscription all over its body. These inscriptions were added later and are usually personal names or dedication phrases. The written records in general consist of a vast number of inscriptions on stone slabs, rock faces, bronze tablets, and other objects, together with graffiti on rock, scattered widely through the peninsula. The Yemenite inscriptions are in Old South Arabian (sub-classified into Minaean, Sabaean, Qatabānian, and Hadhramautic), which is an independent group within the Semitic family of languages. Many sites, including structures such as dams, temples, and palaces, have been excavated in the area of ancient Yemen, and with them artistic objects of high quality. Some motifs are partly characteristic of Yemen, but from the 3rd century BC onwards the style is markedly Hellenistic. It is possible that many statues were manufactured locally as copies, as we have evidence of bronze statues from earlier periods manufactured in the distinctive local style. However, the incised writing suggests that this statue was traded from the Mediterranean area. South Arabian towns were important trading spots, home to two rare and precious trade items, the tree resins of frankincense and myrrh, both expensive and highly coveted. There were several major kingdoms formed in pre-Islamic South Arabia, notably the kingdoms of Saba, Hadramawt and Quataban. The statue itself might represent a Hellenistic form of the Egyptian creator god Min, who was depicted as a young man holding his genitals in the left hand, worshipped especially in Upper Egypt.