The Ancient Levant refers to an area that covers much of modern day Southwest Asia, from the Taurus Mountains to the Mediterranean Sea and includes Cyprus, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Israel. Historically the area has been a rich fertile land populated with kingdoms since the early Bronze Age and has provided us with some of the most fascinating art historical evidence of the earliest forms of idol making.
This attractive bronze or copper alloy figure depicts a female standing tall and powerful. Constructed from a slender body with sinuous curves, she has rounded full hips and a large bosom with a pinched waist. Her long, thin arms bend at ninety degrees at her elbows and rest firmly on her hips with hands facing down. Her legs stand tightly together, with her feet firmly placed in to the ground as she erects herself defiantly facing any who look at her. Her body emphasizes its feminine attributes, highlighting her childbearing capabilities and sexual allure. She is adorned with bracelets around each elbow that have been constructed from thin bands of copper or bronze, as well as several strands of necklaces. She wears a long skirt that flares out at the bottom with a thick pleat running down the centre, and her bosom is covered by further cloth. Her hair is thickly set at chin length with a fringe and her facial features have been gently molded in to the bronze to create a calm composure.
Idols such as this have been found throughout the Canaan region for millennia, and form part of a mysterious ancestral tradition for female worship. Sometimes in the guise of a mother or sometimes seemingly more referencing a lover, little is known of how these statues operated but their abundance is testament to their ancient popularity. Their wide range of appearances, with no two ever alike, suggests each may have been created as a commission and for a specific purpose.
Such female figures have been found in various contexts including inside burials, suggesting perhaps an apotropaic function operating as charms to provide assistance in both this life and the next, and may have referred to a specific person with whom they were acquainted with whilst alive. However they operated, these artifacts provide a fascinating insight in to these ancient traditions of a pre-writing civilization and suggest an artistic output deeply linked to esoteric beliefs. Evidence of such idols recovered form shipwrecks has suggested they traded alongside bronze ingots throughout the Aegean.
A similar figure is in the collection of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. They both exhibit the same slender elongated body, proud pose with arms bent and legs together, and wear ceremonial skirts with thick frontal pleats. The Walters Art Museum example however has broad shoulders and wide chest emphasized, with slim hips and a small bosom. Together these statues indicate the great breadth in which they appear as a female form and suggest that the people of the Ancient Levant, whilst having notions of gender roles in society, also believed in the role of votive statues as an important tool in rituals.
 S. Wachsmann; Seagoing ships and seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant, Texas A&M University Press,1998, p.41.
Private Collection of Mr. Colonel R., circa.1960’s, thence by descent.
Previously with Mr. Colonel Brugelli (Office of the Muslim Officers after the cession of Alexandrette to the Turks), 1938.
Private collection of Mr. A. Parot, 1930’s.
Accompanied by a French export license.