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Fertility Figurine

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity, Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor

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)
    ACCESSION NUMBER 44.226
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    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, 44.226_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    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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