Who is Ishtar?
Ishtar was one of the most important deities in the Mesopotamian pantheon. She was the goddess of love, sex, and fertility. She was also associated with war and the planet Venus. She is represented through architectural motifs like you might see in ziggurats or Mesopotamian temples.
Ishtar is from the text Gilgamesh, right?
Ishtar (as Inana) definitely appears in Gilgamesh, she was one of the most important deities in the Mesopotamian pantheon.
Inana is her name in Sumerian, but Ishtar is her name in Akkadian which quickly became the de facto language of diplomacy in the ancient Near East.
Ah, that's right: Inana! Thanks so much.
Can you tell me a little bit more about Ishtar’s setting and how she was chosen to be in The Dinner Party?
According to Judy Chicago, her criteria for inclusion in The Dinner Party were as follows:
1) Did the woman make a significant contribution to society?
2) Did she attempt to improve conditions for women?
3) Did her life illuminate an aspect of women's experience or provide a model for the future?
Ishtar fits these criteria, the way many ancient fertility goddesses do, because she represents the ability to reproduce the importance of which transcends species. In this context, Ishtar represents the essential role that women play in life itself and being venerated for it.
The stepped pattern on the runner is based on the stepped design of a ziggurat. The border between the gold and the white is known as a "brick stitch" and is meant as a reference to the Ishtar Gate from Babylon.
Thank you! This is so helpful
Do you know who Judy Chicago consulted for the information about Ishtar and her place in feminism?
I'm not actually sure, Chicago and her research team consulted a variety of sources.
In terms of her place in feminism, I do know that there was a general sentiment, beginning in the 1970s, that polythestic cultures and goddess worship meant that women's power was more acknowledged in the ancient world.
In contrast to the major monotheistic religions where the singular deity is typically referred to with male pronouns, having a female deity to associate women with earned them more importance in society.
Can you tell our kids (age 10) something about Judy Chicago's "The Dinner Party"?
Judy Chicago's "The Dinner Party" was inspired by the lack of focus on women's achievements in her own education. She wanted to highlight the accomplishments of women throughout history!
Each plate and runner at The Dinner Party represents one of these important and accomplished women. For example, you sent me a photo of the place setting for Ishtar.
Ishtar was an important goddess in Mesopotamia and was associated with fertility (both of humans and nature), which was very important to the success of Mesopotamian city-states.
The plate is gold to represent her importance and you'll notice that there are seed-like forms as a reference to her role as the giver of life!
Why does Judy Chicago give so much importance to vulvar imagery?
One of the main reasons is that it is something inherently female; The Dinner Party is meant to present something entirely female in the face of a history that has often been entirely male.
It is also meant to directly counteract the prevalence of phallic symbolism in art and architecture throughout history.
The decidedly vulvar imagery of many of the place settings also does allude to images of butterflies and flowers: symbols of metamorphosis and growth.
Who is Ishtar in the Dinner Party?
Ishtar is the Akkadian name for the primary goddess of the Mesopotamian pantheon. Ishtar was most significantly associated with fertility, an important factor in the success of the city-states of Mesopotamia.
Her dominion also extended in the realms of love an war. She is one of the mythical figures included at The Dinner Party.