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HOME : Biblical Antiquities : Sabean Art : Sabean Limestone Idol of the Lady of ad-Dali
Sabean Limestone Idol of the Lady of ad-Dali - LO.549
Origin: Yemen
Circa: 100 BC to 100 AD
Dimensions: 7" (17.8cm) high
Collection: Biblical Antiquities
Medium: Alabaster

Location: Great Britain
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This bust was originally part of an idol of a goddess, identifiable by her diadem which is designed as two concentric circlets as well as by her multi-stranded necklace consisting of a series of beads. She would have originally been shown standing with her feet together on an integral plinth which may have been inscribed. She is wearing a tightly fitting, form-revealing sheath which in keeping with concerns for modesty suppresses the forms of her breasts. Her arms are bent at a right angle at the elbow and held out in front of her body giving one the impression that she was holding an attribute of some kind in her hands.

Her hair is coiffed in a style popular among Sabaean depictions of women. It is pulled back behind the ears, giving the impression of being closely cropped, and gathered at either side of the neck in projecting, triangularly-shaped tresses. The scored lines on her cheeks are to be regarded within the context of her hair style. Incision has also been employed to articulate her eye brows and eyes. Those eyes are now hollow but were originally inlaid and would have imbued the idol with a certain degree of majesty.

The design and style of this idol conforms in every way to a limestone statuette discovered in the Shuka necropolis of Yemen which is presently in the National Museum of Aden. The excavators named that idol “the Lady of ad- Dali,” and our idol is a second example of this type. One prefers to identify such images as idols of goddesses worshipped by the Yemeni tribesmen who controlled the trade routes, but one cannot exclude the possibility that the statuette represents an elite member of that society. It is important to stress that the Sabaean Culture which flourished in the southwestern quadrant of the present Arabian Peninsula is the traditional homeland of the Queen of Sheba. Such an image is a lasting reminder of the realm of that great queen and her legendary wealth.

Reference: St. John Simpson, Queen of Sheba. Treasures from Ancient Yemen [exhibition catalogue] (London 2002), page 119, figure 130, for the Lady of ad-Dali.

- (LO.549)


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