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Two Funerary Statues at Cyrene

  • Saleh Wanis (a1)


The female funerary bust, as a type of grave monument, consists of a bust or a demi-statue including hips, waist, shoulders and head. The type is unparalleled elsewhere in the history of ancient sculpture.

1. This unique unpublished find (pl. 1) of the Flavian period, which is made of grained white marble and measures 50 cm. high by 34 cm. wide, was found at El-Beggara in the S. W. Cemetery at Cyrene by Mr. Ali Bu Nuw-wara on 4 November 1971. The statue portrays a draped woman in half-length bust form. The bust terminates a short way below the waist and is worked flat at the bottom. The figure is in good condition; only three fingers of the left hand are missing and some drapery ridges are chipped or broken.

The figure holds her right arm, bent at the elbow, horizontally across her body; the left arm is bent up to the side of the face and holds part of her garment across the face as a veil. The figure is completely draped in a himation which both enfolds the body and covers the head. The left hand, with thumb, ring and little fingers missing, stretches a part of the himation across the eyes, nose and mouth. These features are indicated under the transparent folds of the mantle. Here the sculptor has precisely demonstrated the delicacy of the facial features through the veil, an effect produced by his controlled chisel work. The figure's forehead is graced with tightly curled hair which is massed over the brow like a short African haircut. The hair style is typical of the Flavian period and is not later than the time of Hadrian. The folds of the himation in front are rendered as sharp ridges crossing the body; the back is also carved with folds of the same type but worked in a more simplified manner. The figure wears a snake bracelet on her left arm; this type of armlet appears in many of these Cyrenean funerary busts and may have iconographic or symbolic significance.



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1.Beschi, L., ‘Divinita funerarie Cirenaiche’, Annuario della Scuola Archeologica di Atene vol. XLVII–XLVIII (19691970).
2.Chamoux, F., Cyrène sous la Monarchie des Battiades Paris (1953).
3.Goodchild, R. G., Cyrene and Apollonia, an historical guide (1963, 2nd edition).
4.Paribeni, E., Cat. delle sculture di Cirene Rome (1959).
5.Rosenbaum, E., A cat. of Cyrenaican portrait sculpture London (1960).
6.Polace, al., Sculture Greche e Romane di Cirene Padova (1959).
7.Traversari, G., Statue Iconiche Femminili Cirenaiche Rome (1960).
8.Pausanias, , Description of Greece, i, xviii, 9. Other literature is quoted in Beschi's footnotes, particularly in p. 133, nn. 1, 2.

Two Funerary Statues at Cyrene

  • Saleh Wanis (a1)


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