Large Steatopygous Figure
Large Steatopygous Figure
Amlash, Ancient Iran
1st Millennium B.C.
This magnificent idol is monumental in size and is an exceptional example of an Amlash clay sculpture. The Amlash culture of Ancient Iran takes its name from a small town in the north of that country, near which a wealth of extraordinary objects were unearthed – the legacy of a fascinating Iron Age civilization. During the first millennium BC, the area corresponding to the modern-day Iranian provinces of Gilan and Mazadaran constituted the lands of the Amlash people. Their culture remains mysterious: vessels and idols such as this piece remain among the most important sources for our knowledge of the rituals and aesthetics of this region and era. Spiritual artefacts are among the most common to survive, and the large number of votive idols and libation vessels which have been recovered would suggest that religion played a very important role in daily rituals. This graceful, sculpturally beautiful idol is one such spiritual artefact. Amlash artists are best known for their terracotta figurines. These pieces are remarkable for their abstract style, dominated by a sensitivity to form rather than an obsessive realism. There is a tendency towards exaggeration, as may be seen in the case of this figurine. The curves of the form are steatopygous with hips heavily emphasized. The figure is naked, the limbs stylized and rounded. The torso is flat and tubular with a long cylindrical neck, on top of which rests a stylized disc shaped head with a high polos headdress on top. The epic proportions, artistic form and remarkable state of preservation make this an outstanding example of its type.
Most probably with Charles Gillet (1879–1972), Lausanne, Switzerland.
In the Private Collection of Marion Schuster (1902–1982) (also known as Marion de Goldschmidt-Rothschild), Lausanne, Switzerland
Sold at: Phillips, London, 7 July 1989, 27768, lot 56.
With Aaron Gallery, acquired from the above sale.
With David Aaron Ancient Art since 1998.
Private Collection, acquired from the above 18 April 2006.
This Amlash idol was most probably previously in the collection of Charles Gillet (1879–1972), who was a noted industrialist and was a member of the renowned Gillet family, developers of dyeing techniques, exceptional fabrics and silks in Lyon, France. Gillet inherited the family firm Rhône Poulenc, running it successfully and amassing a fortune that allowed him to become a great collector and patron of ancient art. He was a noted connoisseur of antiquities and had a collection in Switzerland that included bronzes from Luristan, Egyptian limestone figures, Athenian red-figure ceramics, and important Hellenistic gold and silver coins. He was known not only for operating discreetly through a network of trusted dealers and advisors but also for his discerning eye for quality, rarity and beauty. He began dispersing his collection in the 1950s, and after his death the majority went to auction. Some of his works of art are now housed in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Morgan Library in New York.
Marion Schuster (1902–1982), the second wife of Albert Maximilian, 2nd Baron Goldschmidt Rothschild, apparently inherited all or most of Charles Gillet’s collection upon his death.