This striking female figurine, characteristic of the Halaf period, is hand-formed from solid, orange-pink clay and richly decorated with a geometric pattern of brown and red polychrome. She is depicted sitting naked with her arms folded around her breasts in a position that is suggestive of childbirth. While the head is roughly modeled, and hands and feet are lacking, the female attributes - large hips and swelling breasts - are strongly accentuated. The heightening of these features clearly emphasizes the life-giving and sustaining fertility principle in the form of a female "mother goddess" figure. As the guarantee of the regular renewal of life, she had a key role to play in a society based on the production of natural resources. Such figures document religious conceptions of the early inhabitants of Tel Halaf and are some of the earliest representations of the human form in clay. The maker's skill is demonstrated by the sophisticated firing, which must have been carried out at high but variable temperatures.
The culture commonly known as Halaf (circa 6000-5100 BC), which succeeded those of Hassuna and Samarra, originated in Syria and northern Mesopotamia. It had specific architectural traditions, in particular the development of a circular housing pattern. Small Halaf villages derived their livelihood from growing grain and raising livestock. But the hallmark of this culture was the production of painted pottery of remarkable quality both for its varied and often daring forms and for the richness of its polychrome decoration, which was both geometrical and realistic.
See Figures #102 and 107 in Symbols of Prehistoric Mesopotamia by Beatrice Goff (Yale, 1963) for similar Halaf female figures.
Condition: Complete, the head rejoined and in fine condition overall with excellent remaining polychrome.
Dimensions: Height: 7.62 cm (3 inches), Width: 3.81 cm (1 1/2 inches) from the base of the figure.
Provenance: S. Bono private collection, Chicago, Il, acquired from the London trade.