South Arabian stele bearing a female bust
South Arabian, 1st century BC - 1st century AD
Dimensions: 24 x 19 cm
Provenance: With Gimpel Fils prior to 1970s; Collection of Bruno Grunfeld, UK.
The half-length figure rounded at the bottom emerges from a flat panel, a ledge protruding along the base which may originally have borne the donor's name. She raises her right hand with the palm open towards the viewer and in her left holds a bundle which may represent wheat. Deeply hollowed eyes below grooved eyebrows which would all have been inlaid, a small cleft in the chin. The figure represents a priestess portrayed to intercede with the sun goddess on behalf of the donor.
Similar examples are illustrated in the Gimpel Fils exhibition catalogue, 'Sculpture from South Arabia', 1970, nos. 23 and 45. A comparable example showing the same pose is in the collection of the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (acquisition number 21.73). A stele with similar figure but with arms across the body was included in the British Museum exhibition 'Queen of Sheba, Treasures from Ancient Yemen’; catalogue by St John Simpson, London, 2002, p. 199, no. 281.