First off, I have kind of an unrelated College Board question on this piece: is that whole title really the title? Come on College Board! I am going to use a shortened title here because that is ridiculous. Statue of votive figures it is! I’ve begun to notice that I call a lot of art pieces “cute” which is probably not the most academic adjective I could use but come on! These guys are adorable!
Art Historical Background
These statutes were made as religious offerings in the temple, possibly representing humans. I hate to use the word “mass produced” because that makes people think of objects made in a factory but these votive figures are not unique singularly made items. The are made from a model and at Tell Asmar alone there was a cache of dozens of statues.
Their function as “worshippers” standing in constant prayer is clearly demonstrated in their form:
- Enlarged eyes looking upwards (to the heavens)
- Clasped hands in a common symbol of prayer or holding cups
- Simple clothing that is not overly decorated and without heavy adornment
- Cylindrical, geometric shapes that follows a formula
- Each rests of a base
- Small scale, they ranged from 1-3 feet
Some of these statues even contain an inscription of the individual donor or the god (yay! writing!). Although some of the owners are identified, these were NOT intended to be portraits of the individuals. These statuettes functioned as a symbolic “stand-in” for the donor in worship, remember ziggurat temples were very restricted access in Mesopotamia. These objects were carefully interred under the floor of the temple after use and were found by archeologists in the 1930s in the same hole they were laid in!
- The World’s Great Archaeological Treasures by Paul G. Bahn, pgs. 62-63 (Tell Asmar)
- Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History, 15th edition, pgs. 35 (Problems and Solutions: Sumerian Votive Statuary & Eshnunna Statuettes)
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Early Dynastic Sculpture, 2900–2350 B.C.
- Khan Academy: Standing Male Worshipper from Tell Asmar
- Beth LaCour: Statues from Abu Temple (c 2900- 2600 BC)
- Cool Art Blog: Ancient Art-Sumerian Votive Figures
- Art 235: Ancient Near East (Votive Figures)
- 30,000 Years of Art pg. 56 (Iraq: Sumerian Votive Statuettes)