©J. Paul Getty Trust
Causey, Faya. Cat. 3, Pendant: Addorsed Females, Ancient Carved Ambers in the J. Paul Getty Museum
Ed. Faya Causey. Los Angeles: Getty P, 2012. museumcatalogues.getty.edu. Web. 24 May 2019.
Cat. 3, Pendant: Addorsed Females
Height: 40 mm; width: 102 mm; depth: 13 mm; Diameter of suspension holes: 2.5 mm; Weight: 39.3 g
Height: 40 mm; width: 102 mm; depth: 13 mm
Diameter of suspension holes: 2.5 mm
Weight: 39.3 g
The pendant is intact and in good condition. Although its two sides mirror each other, the obverse is distinguished by a more plastic rendering of the figures and superior carving, especially of the left-hand figure (hereafter referred to as Figure A). Figure A has minor chips on the reverse shoulder and small breaks on the feet at the hem area. Figure B has a chip on the reverse shoulder. The piece is a dark reddish brown color in ambient light and is dark ruby-red in transmitted light. There are many large inclusions, including those at the heads, torsos, knees, and feet of both figures.
The pendant is carved from a relatively flat piece of amber and represents two figures standing back to back. An indentation and an engraved line separate the rigidly posed, profiled figures. The two figures are identified as females because of their facial characteristics and dress. Although similar, they are not identical: the faces are especially idiosyncratic.
On both sides of Figure A, the forehead-to-nose line is smooth, with only the slightest bulge at the brow ridge and a faint indentation for the root of the nose. The eyes are amygdaloidal, with the outer corners higher than the inner. The angle of the nose is close to the facial plane; the nose itself points slightly downward, and overhangs the level of the short chin. The upper lip area is short; the upper lip protrudes over the lower. The face of B is different: the forehead slopes more acutely; the root of the nose is more deeply indented; the nose is attached lower on the face; and the angle of the nose is farther from the facial plane. The eyes of Figure B are also almond-shaped but are narrower. The figure’s lips have an even profile. Her chin is short and small, and there is a hint of a double chin. The mouth furrow, cheek modeling, and the area under the chin area are features that make Figure B appear older than A.
The two wear the same type of dress, a long chiton that descends to the ankle; a tightly fitting veil, which covers the hair and falls to the hem; and a heavy, ankle-length cloak. There is no indication of hair on either woman. Swellings and indentations on the surface of the piece describe the shape of the arms and upper torsos. Each figure places one hand flush on the chest and with the other holds the left edge of her garment at the waist area. Figure A has her right hand up and the left below; Figure B has her left hand above and the right below. The small feet of Figure B are pointed, without any toes delineated, suggesting that both figures were meant to be represented as shod. (The toe area of Figure A is broken off.)
Tool marks include visible abrasion traces in the sections closest to the engraved line that separates the two figures, at the necks, and at the ankles. The perforation for suspension passes from front to back at the center of the pendant, at the nape of each figure’s neck.
This amber pendant is unique in composition and iconography. The combination of dress elements worn by the figures of 77.AO.81.1—the long chiton, veil, and heavy, enveloping overgarment, Emeline Richardson’s Heavy Cloak—is otherwise unattested. Generally, the best parallels for the figures of 77.AO.81.1 are the two other pendants from this group with standing female figures (cat. nos. 1 and 2, 77.AO.84 and 77.AO.85) and their comparanda, including the group of four ambers likely from Ascoli Piceno in Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) and the pendant of two standing figures in London. The female figure in the latter, also presented in profile, is especially close in physical type and dress, although she is of a huskier physical type. 77.AO.81.1 also has correspondences with three other kinds of archaeological material: Etruscan bronzes, ivory and bone carvings, and bucchero ware. In each case, the traditions informing the imagery are similar.
The votive bronzes most like 77.AO.81.1 are in Richardson’s Early Etruscan Ladies Series, the same group that provides good parallels for 77.AO.82 (cat. no. 4), 77.AO.84 (cat. no. 1), and 77.AO.85 (cat. no. 2). Three, now in London, Leiden, and Florence, respectively, are the most similar. The salient parallel for 77.AO.81.1 is the last, Florence 27, which is the latest in Richardson’s B Series. The sculptural contours and facial profiles are nearly identical, and, in both cases, the shawl curves over the forehead in the same way. The small feet are also comparable, although the Florence bronze wears calceoli repandi (curled-toe boots) rather than the simple boots of the amber women. London 1907.3–11.1, among the earliest in the Ladies Series, is most like the figures of 77.AO.81.1 in facial type, in the small, articulated hands, and in the shod feet. The Leiden bronze is most similar in dress. Although more simply rendered than on 77.AO.81.1, it is the same garment.
The ivory and bone carvings related to 77.AO.81.1 include an identical pair of bone plaques from a chair or other furnishing from a tomb at Belmonte Piceno, representing a large winged goddess flanked by two small female figures; and a number of bone pendants, one from the Large Building excavations at Poggio Civitate, and others, all votives, from the Stipe di Sant’Omobono, Rome. The small figures from the Picene bone plaques wear clothing different from that of 77.AO.81.1 but are similar in their arm and hand positions and their addorsed poses. The unique figure-seal from the Sant’Omobono deposit is analogous in style and figural type but differs in the position of the arms. The arms of all of the Sant’Omobono votives (and probably that of the Poggio Civitate pendant) hang at their sides.
The images of Potnia Theron decorating the handles of some Orientalizing bucchero kyathoi are significantly similar in format and style to 77.AO.81.1. The figural type, proportions, and modeling are comparable to a series of kyathoi handles from Poggio Civitate, and to another type found at several sites, but which, too, may have originated at Chiusi. This type is adorned with images of a full-figured Potnia Theron who is winged and holds long-necked birds.
There are few carved ambers formed into doubled subjects, but among them is another work from the same Getty group, 77.AO.81.3, Paired Lions (cat. no. 6). Two other approximately contemporary examples, both Picene, are the fragmentary pendant with addorsed figures from Castelbellino and the Philadelphia pendant (MS 2358) in the form of a draped standing female backed with a nude figure. Earlier doubled-figure compositions in amber include the Getty Addorsed Sphinxes (cat. no. 28) and a number of the pendants from Tomb VI at Satricum (circa 640–30 B.C.): two pairs of twinned nude females, a pair of twinned, possibly masked figures, a seated monkey with a small, fetuslike, possibly human figure on his head, and two pendants of conjoined foreparts, one a lion-centaur, and the other a lion and (perhaps) dog. Two parallels much later than 77.AO.81.1, dating to the fourth century, are pendants of addorsed human heads. One is the central pendant of a votive necklace from the sanctuary of the goddess Mefite in the Valle d’Ansanto (a rare example of a figured amber excavated from a sanctuary), and the second, a nearly identical pendant, also from a string of very similar-looking amber human-head pendants.
Addorsed compositions and doubling generally were already age-old by the sixth century. Doubled figures, some addorsed, are not uncommon among ivory and bone carvings from Egypt, the Near East, and the Phoenician world. This compositional motif was often used for objects such as handles and pommels as well as in weaving or embroidery. Doubled images may represent the same figure twice or two different figures. Doubling and twinning may always have been inherently magical. The doubling of a phrase in a magical spell was understood to increase its efficacy, and the same may have been true for imagery. In amulet making, doubling and addorsed compositions were well-established conventions.
Many kinds of objects in the ancient world include two figures represented side by side, in both seated and standing poses, but addorsed compositions are rare. Among the exceptions are terracotta vessels, bone and ivory carvings, and the above-noted ambers. In some cases, the figures are identical; in others, they are distinct. The significance of the addorsed pose is not clear.
In Egypt, as C. Desroches Noblecourt points out, addorsed figures are a convention used to represent figures that are actually side by side. Stelae of the New Kingdom and later periods frequently show two deities back to back. The conscious pattern seen in the countless examples of paired deities, figures, or symbols is unmistakable. As Richard Wilkinson observes, “Often in fact, a pair of deities—especially goddesses—are depicted identically in dress and appearance and differ only in name, as though their very duality gave them significance enough.” One Etruscan example is a funerary object from Orvieto dating to the second half of the sixth century, a tufa cippus in the form of back-to-back busts of female figures, likely sphinxes, and a suitably Egyptian subject for an addorsed composition.
Objects with identical addorsed female subjects in Egyptian, Eastern Mediterranean, and Orientalizing Greek art may point the way for further study of the meaning of the subject type in Italy. Because 77.AO.81.1 is made of amber, the figures must be divinities, heroines, or demons. The hand gestures of the pair may emphasize the fertility and funerary aspects of the amber. If a divine subject, the pendant may represent a “duplicate divinity.” That is, as T. Hadzisteliou Price has summed up, a doubled divine image may represent one deity with two names or two aspects, natures, or cults; a deity that appears in the plural, such as the Eilithyiae; or a duplication of one goddess for the purpose of strengthening the deity’s quality. However, because of the subtle differences between the two figures of 77.AO.81.1, it may be that the pendant represents a dyad: that is, two discrete divine individuals.