Collections: Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art: Fertility Figurine

  • 1st Floor
    Arts of Africa, Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden
  • 2nd Floor
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  • 3rd Floor
    Egyptian Art, European Paintings
  • 4th Floor
    Contemporary Art, Decorative Arts, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art
  • 5th Floor
    Luce Center for American Art

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    Fertility Figurine

    Statuettes of naked women with incomplete legs, like this example, have been found in Middle Kingdom tombs and houses. Early Egyptologists mistakenly identified them as concubines intended to provide the spirits of men with an eternity of sexual pleasure.

    Recent studies show that both men and women used these figures to ensure fertility. In the home, they were believed to enhance a wife's fruitfulness and a husband's potency by invoking Hathor, the goddess of sexual love. As tomb offerings, they guaranteed the deceased's sexual power in the afterlife.

    • Medium: Faience
    • Place Made: Egypt
    • Dates: ca. 1938-1630 B.C.E.
    • Dynasty: XII Dynasty-early XIII Dynasty
    • Period: Middle Kingdom
    • Dimensions: 2 x 5 3/16 in. (5.1 x 13.1 cm)  (show scale)
    • Collections:Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
    • Museum Location: This item is on view in Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity, Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
    • Exhibitions:
    • Accession Number: 44.226
    • Credit Line: Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    • Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY
    • Caption: Fertility Figurine, ca. 1938-1630 B.C.E. Faience, 2 x 5 3/16 in. (5.1 x 13.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 44.226. Creative Commons-BY
    • Image: overall, CUR.44.226_erg2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 12/11/2007
    • Catalogue Description: Faience figurine of a dancing-girl. Turquoise blue glaze with details (hair, eyes, and eyebrows, ornaments) in purplish black. The figure is rather well-modeled, with slender waist and swelling thighs. The upper arms are free from the body, but hands and lower arms lie close to the thighs. The legs end (as is frequent in servant-figurines of the period) in rounded stumps at the knees. The girl wears a “Hathor” wig with spiral curls in front and straight, squared lock in back, and is nude save for a girdle of cowrie-shells and beads and bead necklaces, indicated by black markings. Black dots arranged in lozenges on legs probably indicate tattooing. The pubic triangle is emphasized by black dots. Condition: Broken through the middle and repaired. Black spots worn in places. Brownish traces of (?) clay mould. Otherwise perfect.
    • Record Completeness: Best (84%)
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