South Arabian Peninsula, Yemen, Sabean, ca. 6th century BCE. A mesmerizing cast bronze statue of a standing man who most likely represents a religious priest making an offering. The broad-shouldered man stands with arms bent at the elbows as if they once held a sacrificial offering. He faces forward with a rather serious countenance comprised of large almond shaped eyes that may have once held stone inlays, a sharp browline, a naturalistic nose, pursed lips, and a neatly manicured beard - all crowned by a curly coiffure. He wears a voluminous himation with drapery folds cascading over his strong body. These folds along with his rigid stance and stern demeanor remind us of Archaic Greek and Cypriot figures, suggesting that in addition to trade there was an exchange of aesthetic ideas among these cultures. A very interesting detail is the knife tucked into his himation beneath his rather large nipple, supporting the idea that this priest was engaged in a ceremonial sacrifice to honor the gods. Size: 11.75" H (29.8 cm); 15.25" H (38.7 cm) on included custom stand.
Saba was an ancient kingdom that presided over regions of southern Arabia in what is now modern day Yemen. Saba is also known as Sheba (Hebrew for "the kingdom") whose queen (the Queen of Sheba) visited King Solomon according to the Old Testament. Biblical accounts describe the immense wealth of Sheba, and modern archaeological excavations have confirmed these reports - discovering ruins of walled towns and fortresses as well as remains of their extensive irrigation system. Although gold and silver deposits were found in the land of Saba, frankincense and myrrh, two of the most coveted materials during ancient times, were their primary luxuries. These precious substances were obtained from trees that can only grow in South Arabia. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the Sabean Kingdom was the erection of the Great Dam of Marib, a colossal structure that allowed this ancient civilization to source water from the mountains for both the city as well as the agrarian fields. This impressive dam was used until the 6th century CE - and the Koran discusses its destruction as a sign of the demise of the old world and a major historical turning point.
See a similar bronze male sculpture from the Kingdom of Saba at the Louvre Museum in Room 19.
Provenance: private Los Angeles, California, USA collection owned for almost two decades; ex-Shlomo Moussaieff, London, England, 1969
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Missing lower arms and lower legs as shown. Two small losses to back of the head and one area of loss to lower sleeve on right forearm. Clay core is visible at openings of the sleeves and lower himation. Expected surface wear commensurate with age, but the details are still quite vivid and the bronze has developed a magnificent patina of vibrant aqua blue-green, forest green, and warm red hues.