A-to-Z Index

GARTH 205 - Laura Purvis

Spring 2012


Required Procedures:

1) Choose one of the objects below and note its current location.

2) Carefully look at the photograph and read the information provided.

3) Research any unfamiliar words or imagery before your visit.

4) If your object is in Skyline Museum: go to Festival room 1108 which is open Monday-Friday from 10am-4pm, no appointment needed.  Please let the gallery attendent know that you are here for Laura Purvis's paper assignment so that you can sign in and out on the appropriate sheet.

If your object is in the Madison Art Collection, make an appointment with Dr. Kathryn Stevens (stevenke@jmu.edu) at least one week before you wish to see the object.  Dr. Stevens is generally available M-F from 10am-4pm.

5) While viewing the object, complete the Museum Assignment Handout.  Additional copies of this handout can be found on the course's Blackboard site under Course Documents. 

6) All images and information below may be used, citing this website as your source.  If you have further questions about your selected object, please email Dr. Kate Stevens (stevenke@jmu.edu).

Shabti

Shabti (Answerer)
76.1.359

Egypt: Late Period (25th Dynasty), 700 BCE

Painted Limestone, 23.5 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

Literally meaning “one who answers” Shabti are tomb servants intended to do the labor of the deceased in the Egyptian afterlife.  Typically at least 365 of these were made per funerary so that there would be a worker per day, although wealthy tombs also included overseerer shabti to insure that work was indeed carried out.

 This shabti figure was carved from limestone (cheaper shabti were typically made from faience while more expensive ones could be adorned with gold) and painted to resemble the mummified deceased.  Part of the spell that would magically animate the statue is painted in hieroglyphs overtop the legs.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Tauret

Tauret (Tawaret)
76.1.398

Egypt: Ptolemaic Period, c. 300 BCE

Carved Diorite, 19 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

The goddess who was believed to protect pregnant women and small children, Tauret's body is combines parts of the most fiercely protective mothers in the animal kingdom.  While she stands upright and wears the wig of a human woman, her body and head is that of a hippopotamus.  This doubles as the extended abdomen of a pregnant woman.  Tauret also has the tail of a crocodile and the feet of a lioness.

This statue of Tauret is carved from diorite, probably chosen because of the symbolic nature of the hard stone and its black color (which for the Egyptians represented fertility).  She rests her left hand on a "sa" hieroglyph which itself is a symbol for protection.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Ba-Bird

Ba-Bird
76.1.423

Egypt: Late Period, c. 500 BCE

Carved wood covered in gesso and painted, 20.8 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

The ancient Egyptians believed that the human soul was made up of five parts.  One part, the ba is probably most like our modern understanding of the soul, although the Egyptians would have believed it to be all that made an individual unique.  In funerary rituals they believed that the ba would take the physical form of the deceased’s head atop the body of a sparrow hawk and fly from the tomb at night.  The ba would then visit surviving family members, talking with them in their dreams. 

This sculpture was carved in native Egyptian wood that is typically soft and irregular; such as tamarisk, acacia, or sycamore fig.  Gesso was applied to provide a smoother more regular base before painting.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Qebehsenuef

Qebehsenuef, Son of Horus
76.1.420

Egypt: Late Period, c. 700 BCE

Carved wood covered in gesso and painted, 23 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

Meaning “He who refreshes his brothers” in ancient Egyptian, Qebehsenuef was one of the four sons of the god Horus.  He is easily identified by his falcon head and mummi-form body and was the god of protection and of the West.  With his brothers, he was one of the Seven Shining Ones who guarded the body of Osiris. 

Because the ancient Egyptians associated the West with the dead and the afterlife (they called the dead “Westerners”), he was also associated with mummification.  In the preparation of the dead, his canopic jar was used to hold the dried and preserved intestines. 

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Near Eastern statue of a woman

Near Eastern woman or votive statue of goddess (Ishtar or Lilith?)76.1.215

Mesopotamia: Assyrian?, c. 1000 BCE

Mold cast and hand-built ceramic, 12.6 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

This small ceramic figure probably represents a Mesopotamian goddess, perhaps Lilith (the Judaic-Christian Adam’s first wife) or Ishtar (a “mistress of animals” type).  This identification can be made because of the animal legs and tail that appear below the fully formed human head and torso.  Recent research indicates that the Assyrians associated this hybrid form with female demons, the Lilitu.  These demons attacked women and children as well as preyed sexually upon men (much like the succubi).  Because this work is most likely a votive figure that would be purchased by a pilgrim as an offering to a holy site or temple, it is most likely that of a goddess.

The female figurine is made of clay that was pressed into a mould, but the legs and tail were shaped by hand.  If you look closely at the legs, you will notice finger prints made by the artist, probably while applying the iron oxide slip (the red color loosely applied on the object).

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Sumerian man

Votive Statue of a Man
76.1.219

Mesopotamia: Late Sumerian, c. 2000 BCE

Carved sedmimentary stone, 23 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

Much of Sumerian sculpture was used as ritual works for temples.  Many of them were created in stone for durability, so that the owner of the portrait statue could continue their worship beyond their deaths.  It was common for prayers to be inscribed in cuneiform on the work that dedicated it to a specific god.  Because these statues were meant to pray in place of the owner, they presumably resembled him or her, or at least evidenced social status.  Powerful men were depicted with elaborately braided beards while priests had shaved heads, a sign of purity and cleanliness.  As was common throughout the ancient world, fine clothing was further a sign of wealth and rank.

This votive statue combines the beard and shaven head to tell us that this was a wealthy man who was both powerful and holy (much like the famous Gudea).  His large eyes would have closely watched the god while his large ears could catch the divine words.  These features have most likely been exaggerated by the artist to suggest the intent and purpose of the work.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Amen-Re

Amun-Re or Pharaoh
76.1.396

Egypt: New Kingdom (post-Armarna Period), c. 1325 BCE

Carved wood and cast bronze, 29.5 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

The god Amun became popular in the city-state of Thebes in the Middle Kingdom.  Meaning “the hidden one” he merged with the sun god Re in the New Kingdom to become the popular state god known as “the hidden light.”  His crown is the double feathers with the disk of the sun near the base.  The great temples of Karnak and Luxor were built in his honor and used in formal ceremonies that united him with his wife Mut (the Great Mother) and their son Khonsu (the moon).

This statue of Amun-Re wears his typical crown and wearing a pharonic kilt.  In his hands he probably held an ankh (life) and a was scepter (power), both traditional signs of Egyptian gods.  It is carved from fine grained wood and so must have been imported from Syria as native Egyptian woods are knotty and soft.  Note the curvy style of this statue.  Because it is reminiscent of the Armarna style of the late eighteenth dynasty (King Akhenaton and Nefertiti), it allows us to assign it to a specific time period.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Juno

Juno Regina
76.1.754

Roman: Imperial Period, c. 200 CE

Carved marble, 63 cm tall

Located in the Madison Art Collection

Juno Regina, or Juno the Queen, protected the Roman people.  With her husband Jupiter and his daughter Minerva, the three were the Capitoline Triad, a divine family that had been worshipped since Rome’s Etruscan founding in 753 BCE.  Juno Regina represented the physical land of the city as well as the women who lived there.  It is believed that in Etruscan times queens of city-states, as the embodiment of Juno, must grant their approval before a king could be appointed.  If true, this would explain the prominent role of women in this state cult, a tradition that continued through the ludi saeculares under the rule of Augustus.

This statue of Juno Regina is a pastiche, or a combination of other sculptures combined to form a whole.  This becomes apparent upon close inspection of the raised right arm of the statue as well as the base of the neck.  The proportions of the arm, the more shallow folds of the clothing, as well as the slightly greyer color of the marble, indicate that this was from an entirely different statue.  The head is slightly smaller than the proportions of the body and is carved in a softer style, also indicating that it is from another work.  Regardless, the stance and voluminous drapery of the main body of the statue indicate that it originally was of Juno Regina.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Commodus

Commodus as Hercules
76.1.756

Roman: Imperial Period, c. 190 CE

Carved marble, 18.5 cm tall

Located in the Madison Art Collection

Imperial portraits of the ruler were frequently dispersed throughout the Roman empire as a symbol of his power and authority.  Ones of Commodus can be easily identified because of his affiliation with the hero Hercules (as seen by the lion skin in this work) and his beard (traditionally worn by those who achieve the highest education in philosophy).  Some scholars believe that Commodus was insane, using this personal identification with Hercules as proof, but other powerful leaders such as Alexander the Great also used images of himself combined with the Greek hero.  This use should instead been seen as a symbol of Commodus’s divine elevation and heroic nature; part of the imperial image.

This statue of Commodus is carved from marble, but far from the refined Roman image, it is more squat and muscular and so probably was made in the provinces, perhaps in Germany.  It was intended to be viewed from within its place in a wall niche, hence the sculptor used a heavy relief and drill technique so that the shadows create greater three dimensionality.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Coin of Alexander the Great

Tetradrachm of Alexander III (the Great)

Greek: Hellenistic Period, c. 330 BCE

Silver, 17.0 gm

Located in the Madison Art Collection

Obverse: Head of Herakles, clad with lionskin

Reverse: Zeus on throne, legs crossed, eagle in right hand, scepter in left hand

Alexander III began circulation of these coins in his lifetime, and they lasted long afterwards.  These coins began to take on the same authority the “owls” held, and soon overtook them as the most authoritative coin of antiquity. 

The portrait of Alexander as Herakles alludes to the story of his divine birth (to Zeus and thus a brother to Herakles) as does the image of the sculpture of Zeus from Olympia (by the great artist Phidas) that is featured on the reverse.

Located in the Madison Art Collection storage facilty

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Tetradrachma of Rhodes

Tetradrachma of Rhodes

Greek: Hellenistic, c. 200 BCE

Silver, 13.4 gm

Obverse: Head of Helios in 3/4 view facing right with hair loose

Reverse: Rose with bud on right and eagle on left

Located in the Madison Art Collection

Rhodes was named for the famous roses that were grown on this island that is located in the eastern Aegean Sea.  After it liberation from Athenian rule in 411 BCE, they created a new capital city of Rhodes, named for the island itself.  The coins struck there feature the head of Helios, the sun god.  This visually references the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that stood at the entrance to the harbor until 227 BCE when it was destroyed in an earthquake.  On the reverse of this coin is a rose, a reminder of the name of the city, the island, and the famous flowers grown there.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Coin of Athens

Athenian Tetradrachm

Greek: Classical Period, c. 450 BCE

Silver, 16.8 gm

Located in the Madison Art Collection

Obverse: Helmeted head of Athena facing right

Reverse: Owl standing facing right with olive sprig and crescent moon behind

The Greek “owls” were the most easily recognizable and most accepted coin of its time.  Countries around Mediterranean knew the coins for their authority and would accept them in payment for whatever was desired. 

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Mummy Wrapping Fragment
Mummy from the British Museum

Mummy Wrapping Fragment (Pectoral)
76.1.498

Egypt: Ptolemaic Period, c. 300 BCE

Linen covered with gesso and painted, 39 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

Mummification was an elaborate procedure that was completed with the adornment of the body.  If the deceased could not have afforded actual jewelry, it would have been painted on the wrappings covering the body.  In this fragment of mummy wrapping there are layers of beads resembling necklaces that recall semi-precious stones such as carnelian and turquoise.  Also prominently featured is the blue lotus, a traditional symbol rebirth and spirituality, as well as the Horus falcon with the sun disk crowning his head.

Below is a Ptolemaic mummy from the British Museum's Egyptian collection wearing a fragment of wrapping very much like the one owned by JMU.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Greek Wine Pitcher

Oinochoe with Eros
76.1.610

Greek: Hellenistic Period, c. 330 BCE

Red-figure ceramic, 27 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

This red figure oinochoe (wine pitcher) was created in a Greek colony in southern Italy.  Similar to the fine china given to a modern bride on her wedding day, this pitcher was created as a gift to an ancient Greek bride.  Its slender small proportions indicate the primary user was a woman, and its imagery was meant to reassure a woman who might never have seen her husband before their wedding. 

The central figure is the god Eros, the son of Aphrodite and the god of love (also known as Cupid) who would inspire love at first sight between the couple.  In his hand is a casket (jewelry box) that would hold fine pieces such as the strands of pearls that adorn his body.  Eros also has a pair of wings that indicate he is a minor deity. 

A careful examination of the oinochoe reveals two impressed faces, each at the terminus of the handle.  These probably allude to the Italian deity Janus, the god of openings and closings.

On display in Skyline Museum

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Greek Kylix

Greek Kylix Reverse

Greek Kylix with Satyrs and Maenads (obverse and reverse)
76.1.563

Greek: Classical Period, c. 450 BCE

Red-figure ceramic, 23 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

This kylix features three scenes of satyrs and maenads dancing (two on the bottom and one in the discus of the bowl).  The kylix is a communal wine cup specifically used at the ancient Greek symposium.  Serious issues of ethics and morality were often the topic at these events, frequently interspersed with games, music, and other frivolity.  The kylix features a shallow bowl specifically shaped to play the game kottabos in which participants swirled the wine dregs in the cup, flinging them at a target.

The subject matter of this work addresses the more serious side of the symposium, the issues of ethics and morality.  Satyrs (half-men half-goat mythological creatures) frolic with maenads (female followers of the wine god Dionysus).  These priestesses were famous for breaking the stringent codes governing female behavior in ancient Greek society, causing great anxiety among a patriarchal society.   Because the drinking of wine frequently leads to intoxication and less than ideal behavior, these scenes were a warning to those who drank from the kylix that they too could become less than human if they drank to excess.

On display in Skyline Museum

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Hydra

Hydria
76.1.614

Ancient Italy: Etruscan, Orientalizing Period, c. 600 BCE

Black-figure wheel-thrown ceramic, 33 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

A hydria is a type of vessel used to fetch water, hence its name that is derived from the word “hydor” or water.  They typically have two horizontal handles on the oval body that were used for lifting the vessel and one vertical handle on the back used when pouring (now broken and lost).  This hydria is painted in the “orientalizing” style that came from the Near East and features a large bird (perhaps a crane) in the large central register.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Oil lamp from ancient Crete

Oil Lamp with Sculptor at Work
76.1.505

Greek (Crete): Greco-Roman Period, c. 200 CE

Ceramic, 6.2 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

This press-molded clay oil lamp has a discus that features a sculptor carving a medusa-type head, perhaps for the facade of a temple.  The discus also has a small hole for pouring olive oil into the lamp.  The three nozzles have been decorated to resemble feathers, complimenting the curvilinear pattern surrounding the discus.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Bowl

Kashan Bowl
76.1.240

Persian: Il-Khanid Period, c. 1260 CE

Wheel-thrown ceramic, 9.5 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

Iranian luster and under-glaze ceramics continued in the Kashan area after the Mongol invasion.  It is a continuing tradition marked by the distinctive blue glaze that was obtained from turquoise.  This vase is decorated in the traditional Islamic method of using only geometric forms, arabesque patterns, and inscriptions.   It was common to use passages from the Koran to adorn vessels used for food (the word of Allah is sweet as honey), although because of its date, it may also be a quote from the Persian Shahnameh or other epics.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Vase

Kashan Vase
76.1.241

Persian: Il-Khanid Period, c. 1260 CE

Wheel-thrown ceramic, 14 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

Iranian luster and under-glaze ceramics continued in the Kashan area after the Mongol invasion.  It is a continuing tradition marked by the distinctive blue glaze that was obtained from turquoise.  This vase is decorated in the traditional Islamic method of using only geometric forms, arabesque patterns, and inscriptions.   It was common to use passages from the Koran to adorn vessels used for food (the word of Allah is sweet as honey), although because of its date, it may also be a quote from the Persian Shahnameh or other epics.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Icon

Icon with Saints Nicholas, Vladimir, Vaycheslav, and Catherine
76.1.878

Russian: (Byzantine Style)

Gilding and paint on wood, 26 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

This icon features, from the left, Saint Nicholas, Saint Vladimir, Saint Vyacheslav, and Saint Catherine.  Each of them are clearly label in Old Church Slavonic.  Above their heads float Christ, the Pantokrator, in the clouds and making the sign of a blessing.  This icon is painted on wood and tin is used to additionally decorate the surface.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Icon

Icon with Archangel Michael with Saints Patriarch Maron and Sisiniy
76.1.879

Russian: 19th century (Byzantine style)

Painted wood, 29 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

This icon depicts the archangel Michael, on the left, pointing a trident (a symbol of his position as commander) towards thirteen people in a fiery pit.  To the right stand Saint Sisiny holding a book and Saint Patriarch Marion is wearing a hood.  At the top a small figure of Christ floats in the clouds holding a copy of the gospels and making the sign of blessing.  The names of each of the figures are written above their heads in Old Church Slavonic.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Icon

Icon with Saints Basil, John Chrysostom, Nicholas, Charalambos, Antoinos, & Stylianos
76.1.897

Russian: 18th century (Byzantine style)

Painted wood, 35.5 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

This icon represents six different saints in two registers.  In the upper register, starting from the left, are Saint Basil, Saint John Chrysostom, and Saint Nicholas.  All wear ornate church robes, have golden halos, and carry gospel books in their left hands.  In the lower register, starting from the left, are Saint Charalambos, Saint Antonios, and Saint Stylianos.  All three of these saints are the saints of doctors, pregnant women, and children.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Iconstasis Fragment

Life of Christ Iconostasis (fragment)
76.1.895

Russian: 19th Century (Byzantine Style)

Enameled brass, 38 cm tall

Located in Skyline Museum

In Russian Orthodox Christianity an iconostasis is a wall where icons are placed that separates the public area, the nave, from the sacred area, or the sanctuary.  These walls derived from the Byzantine “templon” in the 15th century.  This fragment of an iconostasis features scenes from the life of Christ and compares them with similar scenes from the life of his mother, Mary.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill