Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Head of a female

Old Babylonian
ca. 2000–1600 B.C.
Southern Mesopotamia
7 1/8 x 5 in. (18 x 12.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Norbert Schimmel Trust, 1989
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 403
This head, broken at the neck and hollow on the inside, depicts a female figure with shoulder length hair arranged in bands of braids around her head and alongside her face. She has large eyes, a small thin smile, and large ears protrude from her hair. Seven bands around her neck represent a multi-strand necklace. The head appears to have been hand-formed out of wads of clay, then fired and painted. The quality of the clay – tempered with organic matter – may account, in part, for its poor preservation. Based on incrustations of dirt that appear only on the exterior surface and not on the bottom break, it seems likely that the head was originally part of a larger figure.

Several terracotta heads and busts are known from both ancient Iraq and Iran in the early second millennium B.C. It seems likely that many of these terracottas were originally part of a larger, perhaps composite, full body representation. Like this figure, they often have attentive expressions, and some are shown with clasped hands. Such expressions and postures call to mind the smaller stone worshiper figures of the Early Dynastic period. We know very little about votive figures in the early second millennium B.C., but we do have evidence for various clay figures that served as temple guardians.
Before 1972, collection of Elie Borowski; by 1972, collection of Norbert Schimmel, New York; from 1983, on loan to the Museum by Norbert Schimmel (L.1983.119.12); acquired by the Museum in 1989, gift of Norbert Schimmel Trust.

“Ancient Art: The Norbert Schimmel Collection,” Cleveland Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1974–1977.

“Von Troja bis Amarna,” Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Archäologische Staatssammlung, Munich, Germany, 1978–1979.

“Ancient Art: Gifts from the Norbert Schimmel Collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, June 4, 1991–September 15, 1991.

Muscarella, Oscar W. ed., 1974. Ancient Art: The Norbert Schimmel Collection. exh. cat. Mainz: Philipp Von Zabern, no. 112.

Settgast, Jürgen, ed. 1978. Von Troja bis Amarna: The Norbert Schimmel Collection New York. exh. cat. Mainz: Philipp Von Zabern, no. 128.

Spycket, Agnes. 1981. La Statuaire du Proche-Orient, Handbuch der Orientalistik 7. Leiden: Brill, pp. 251-252, pl. 175, 133-134.

Schlossman, Betty L. 1981. "Portraiture in the Late Third and Early Second Millennium B.C., Part II: The Early Second Millennium." Archiv für Orientforschung 28, p. 150ff, fig. 12-14.

Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 120 (Jul. 1, 1989 - Jun. 30, 1990), p. 12.

Muscarella, Oscar W. 1992. "Ancient Art: Gifts from the Norbert Schimmel Collection." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 49, pp. 12-13.
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