©J. Paul Getty Trust
Causey, Faya. Cat. 4, Pendant: Divinity Holding Hares, Ancient Carved Ambers in the J. Paul Getty Museum
Ed. Faya Causey. Los Angeles: Getty P, 2012. museumcatalogues.getty.edu. Web. 18 February 2019.
Cat. 4, Pendant: Divinity Holding Hares
Height: 97 mm; width: 64 mm; depth: 24 mm; Diameter of suspension holes: 2.5 mm; Weight: 76 g
Gift of Gordon McLendon, 77.AO.82
Height: 97 mm; width: 64 mm; depth: 24 mm
Diameter of suspension holes: 2.5 mm
Weight: 76 g
Gift of Gordon McLendon
The piece is in excellent condition, and its surface is uniformly hard, smooth, and shiny. The amber is crazed overall and has numerous minute cracks and fissures, which are especially noticeable on the figure’s feet and in the head and body of the hare to her left. The broken tip of the left hare’s nose is the only significant loss to the pendant. In ambient light, the piece is dark red-orange and translucent; in transmitted light, the amber is transparent and bright red-orange. There is a large, cloudy inclusion in the upper body of the hare on the figure’s right side, and other inclusions are scattered throughout the piece.
The pendant is worked from a large piece of amber, rounded on both the obverse and reverse sides. The figure is identified as youthful because of the lack of beard hair and the relative body proportions. Its sex is not evident.
The figure wears a short, simple, schematically rendered short chiton or chitoniskos. There is no indication of the front neckline or the sleeve hems, and no belt. The top edge of the footwear is not indicated, but the smooth, close-fitting shape and pointed toe box suggest that they are boots. The figure stands in a rigid frontal pose. In each arm, the figure grasps the hind feet of a large crouching hare held head downward. The space between the figure’s neck and the hares’ bodies is undefined.
The figure’s head is large in proportion to the body; its narrow shoulders slope slightly. The broad chest protrudes in the breast area, but there are no individualized breasts. The hips are narrow. The back is full through the upper area and concave in the lumbar region, and the rounded buttock area protrudes. The long, thin arms end in small, rounded hands. Each hand shows four fingers and the roots of the thumbs. The legs are thick, short, and sturdy and the thighs and calves full, and are contiguous for their full length. No knees are indicated. The feet are small.
Geometry and pattern infuse the face: it is round, broad, and flat; the curve of the hairline in front is echoed by that of the eyebrow ridge, and the line of the lower eyelids mirrors that of the chin. The eyes are blank, elongated ovals that are plastically rendered and outlined with raised eyelid rims. The outer canthi are higher than the inner ones, and the left eye is narrower and slanted farther upward than the right. Both the frontal and parietal eminences of the cranium are wide. The otherwise flat forehead bulges slightly at the brow ridge, but there is no indentation for the root of the long nose, which lies at an angle close to the face. The upper lip area is short, the mouth small, and the mentolabial sulcus shallow. The mouth is wider than the nose, the lower lip wider than the upper. A groove indicating the mouth furrow runs from the top of the nose wings to the corners of the mouth. The lips, formed by two nearly parallel bars separated by a groove, have their corners punctuated by drilled indentations. The chin is also wide and projects slightly, the under-chin area full and angled downward to the neck. In front, the smooth cap of hair is raised above the plane of the brow; in back, the hair follows the shape of the skull and is wide through the crown and indented below the occipital protuberance. A point of hair at the neck extends below the juncture with the spine (in the cervical region) and must overlap the neckline of the tunic in back.
The hares are large compared to the human figure and are powerfully built, with compact, muscular shoulders and legs. Their forelegs are stretched out under their chins and the hind legs are tucked up close under the bodies. On each animal, an incision line separates the front of the face from the back of the head. The hares’ ears are long and pointed and lie flat against their shoulders. Their longish tails hang down their backsides, with the tips of each tail touching the head of the human figure, creating a parallel line across the top of the pendant.
There are abrasion and scraping marks in many places on the pendant. Drill holes define the indentation between the toes and footpads of the hares’ feet and punctuate the corners of the figure’s mouth, the corners of the hares’ mouths, and the roots of the hares’ ears.
The pendant is drilled for suspension with two long perforations, both of which exit at the top, in the crown of the figure’s head. The perforations’ lower ends exit on the reverse: one hole is between the foot of one hare and just below the figure’s left ear, and the other is in the crook of the hare’s foot near the figure’s right elbow. The least visible and perhaps the strongest method of suspending the pendant would have required two filaments, each tied in a knot at the lower end of the reverse exit holes, the two meeting at the top hole and knotted at this juncture.
Although it is comparable in style, technique, and sculptural conception to the other five pendants in the Getty group (cat. nos. 1–3, 5–6), there are no close parallels for this pendant in any media. All six pendants demonstrate stylistic and iconographic connections with Near Eastern, Peloponnesian, South Ionian, Cypriot, and native Italian sculpted objects in bronze, ivory, terracotta, and amber. Like those of the other five, the composition of 77.AO.82 is of an ancient type and shows well the broad range of visual schema, techniques, and styles current in northern inland Etruria.
No definite conclusion has been reached about the sex or age of the figure. As to identity, the composition, the age-old “Mistress” or “Master” of the Animals schema, announces that the figure is heroic or divine (or both). The proportions, head-to-body and legs-to-torso, the short neck, high chest, and small feet, and the relative scale of hares and figure, seem to suggest that the figure is that of a child, but there exist many images of adults with these characteristics in Greek and Etruscan art of this and earlier periods.
The somatic parallels with some images of children in Hittite art are striking. A critical comparison is the rock-crystal figure of a child in the Walters Art Museum, which Jeanny Vorys Canby demonstrates to be a “Hittite expression of the miraculous child concept.” The short hairstyle, head-to-body proportions, and general sculptural form are remarkably alike.
Neither the hairstyle nor the dress of 77.AO.82 indicates with certainty the sex or age of the central figure. The hair is short and somewhat similar to what Emeline Richardson calls the Etruscan Ducktail, the masculine chin-length cut worn by Early Etruscan votive bronzes of elite males, swordsmen, spearmen, and kouroi. It is not far from the fashion of the sacrificing youth of the Campana Panel, which Sybille Haynes interprets as hair shorn in mourning. The amber figure’s hair can be compared to certain images of Artemis, but it has no analogue. A bronze statuette of Artemis (or an adorant or juvenile dedicant) from Lusoi has hair that is cut short in back and with short bangs, a boxy hairdo. This bronze dates to the end of the sixth century and is thought to be a variant of a cult statue of Artemis Hemera, goddess of Lusoi. It conserves much older traits. Overall, it is the object most similar to 77.AO.82 in hairstyle, dress, and the blocklike body. Parallels for the hair may also be drawn with some ivories of Artemis Orthia from her Spartan sanctuary. In these, the divinity is young and has cropped hair; in some cases she wears a feather headdress. These Spartan figures wear a long, smooth-fitting dress that contrasts with the shorter one worn by 77.AO.82 and the shorter chitons of the Lusoi bronzes. The Spartan ivories belong to what may be the oldest type of Artemis representations, that of the goddess in the form of a frontal draped standing figure.
The amber figure’s dress—the plain, short dress and boots (or bare feet)—is not unusual for male figures, hunters, archers, shepherds, charioteers, riders, athletes, and flying figures, but it is uncommon for females. An important comparison is one of a pair of seventh-century female stone figures from Casale Marittimo (Volterra). Figure A wears a perizoma over a short tunic and a long braid (and her disproportionately long arms and hands are held across her chest in the “mourning gesture”). Later Campanian and Etruscan bronze archers (of circa 530–500) wear leggings under a very similar short costume, but many of the latter are not clearly sexed; they are often also called Scythians and Amazons. Early Etruscan masculine parallels for the clothing of 77.AO.82 are the tunics worn by three bucchero athletes (who also wear the perizoma) and at least one of the hunters on the Bernardini sheath, as well as the riders on the terracotta relief plaques from the principal building at Poggio Civitate. Later sixth-century examples are two of the male subjects of the antefixes from the Temple B cell-row building at Pyrgi, the winged and rayed sun-god Usil, and a bird-headed figure, who is probably Lucifer, the morning star. Important Greek masculine parallels for the amber’s dress (and for its iconography) are the sixth-century Arcadian and Sicyonian bronzes representing Hermes Kriophoros and other unnamed shepherds, certain Ionian bronzes of active figures, and an ivory figure of a horse-tamer from Vathy, Samos. All these works present the short garment as a close-fitting, smoothly rendered sheath of thick cloth.
Among the Greek female parallels for the short chiton are various active figures, athletes and huntresses most notably. As Eva Parisinou outlines, the short hunting dress is worn not only by Artemis, but also by the huntresses Atalante and Prokris, by the hunting female demons Gorgon and the Erinyes, and by female athletes. The short garment may denote the status of the figure and its activity; the same was true for girls who wore the exomis at the Olympian heraia. One of the earliest antecedents for 77.AO.82—if it is female—is a unique and early Greek bronze of an armed female from Thermon, variously dated between the twelfth and eighth centuries. She wears a short chiton, necklace, and boots, and carries a bow in her right hand. Her hair is gathered up under a pointed hat. This may be the same subject as a bronze of a running “girl” from Samos of about 600. Etruscan parallels for the chiton of 77.AO.82 include that of the figure controlling winged horses (Thesan/Dawn), who decorates another of the six astronomical antefix types from the south side of Temple B of Uni/Astarte at Pyrgi; the bird-grasping divinity represented on a series of Etruscan terracotta antefixes from Capua; and a bronze found at Pietrabbondante. The bird-tamer’s chiton is longer than the hare-tamer’s, but it is similarly rendered—simple in its line, it suggests easy movement. (The Capuan figures and the amber hare-tamer are also comparable in their general proportions, youthfulness, face shape, short neck, and long, thin arms.) The bronze from the Pietrabbondante sanctuary wears a shortened dress, and her short hair forms a point in back.
The Ionian aspects of the amber hare-tamer’s style are brought out not only by comparison to the Samian bronze of the running girl and to the Ionian-looking Peleus from the Loeb stand C, but particularly to the ivory horse-tamer in Vathy. The last and 77.AO.82 also share iconography (both figures have short hair and wear unbelted chitons and smooth-fitting boots) and a similar technique (low relief, smooth modeling, and an analogous use of graving tools).
Seven other Etruscan sculptural comparisons, all strongly Ionian in style, are related to 77.AO.82, not only in artisanal terms, but also in iconography. They are a large terracotta votive statuette from Portonaccio, Veii, and four related bronze works: the “Herakles” from Valle Fuino (Cascia) in the Vatican; a bronze in Geneva (Musée d’Art et d’Histoire MF 1017); one in the Louvre; and another in the Getty Museum (96.AC.124). All these figures are distinguished by tall, pointed headdresses or hats that curve forward and animal skins, which in most cases are arranged so the heads hang in front of the pubic area, in sporranlike fashion. Massimo Pallottino suggested that the Portonaccio terracotta represented an unnamed divinity of the Etruscan pantheon, and Giovanni Colonna convincingly associated it with the cult of Aritimi in the sanctuary at Veii.
In answer to the question of who is represented in 77.AO.82, two depictions of masculine figures with hares are important. The winged and snake-tailed male demon of an Etruscan repoussé relief, dated to 600–585 B.C., holds a hare and a lotus flower in his left hand and a wader in his right. A sixth-century haruspex on a gold ring, who holds a hare in the left hand, is a valuable testimony to the sacrifice of the hare in Etruscan haruspicy. The ring, probably from Vulci, was once identified by Rodolfo Siviero as Artemis.
The composition of 77.AO.82 is also eloquent in establishing the perimeters of the identity. The image of a contest between a human figure and animals is known in Mesopotamian art since the fourth millennium and is generally interpreted as a symbol of power or control over nature, and possibly also as a symbol of protection. While both male and female protagonists are known in the art of the Minoan-Mycenaean world, the female is more common. Images of the female figure with animals, first named Potnia on Linear B tablets, seem to have incorporated the Mesopotamian ideology relating to this composition. In Greek Olympian religion, this Mistress of the Animals disappeared and her role and divine attributes were incorporated by other goddesses, among them Athena, Rhea, Hera, and Artemis. In Italy, there appears to have been incorporation by some unnamed divinities. By the seventh century in Greece and in Italy, the “mastery of the animals” schema was adapted to fit current needs, with variants sometimes differing significantly from the Oriental prototypes. Nevertheless, some elements remain constant, chief among them the symmetrical scheme, the frontality of the female figure, and the animals. Although in Italy, images of a “mistress” are more frequent than those of a “master,” both subjects are found in Etruscan art. The “master” is usually shown between horses and the “mistress” is shown as overcoming lions, most commonly, and birds (raptors and waterbirds, especially geese and swans).
While some scholars believe that the mastery imagery came directly from the Orient to central Italy, others have proposed that the subject was transformed in the Mediterranean East before its adoption on the Italian peninsula. There was direct contact with Cretan material in some instances.
Homer calls Artemis Potnia Theron (mistress of the wild beasts) in the Iliad (21.470). I. Krauskopf has argued that the Potnia Theron known in Etruria from the seventh century onward is more like a demon than a divinity proper (such as Artemis) and that there was no early connection between Artemis and Potnia Theron, since in Etruria the latter is never represented with Artemis’s favorite animals. Noting that there is no identifiable Artemis (Artumes) in Etruria before the second half of the sixth century, she suggests that if there is a blending of the two, it is perhaps under Greek influence. H. Damgaard Andersen suggests that the Potnia Theron figure of central Italy must be considered a local goddess and her cult a nature-worshipping one. She proposes that the goddess’s iconography changed in the Orientalizing period from the primitive Iron Age figure into one more like Near Eastern forms under the influence of luxury objects brought to Italy by Phoenician merchants and traders, “who in this way might have initiated an important development of the Italic religious beliefs or at least of the iconography of these deities.” Further, she argues that the importance of Potnia Theron diminished by the second half of the sixth century, since images of the goddess became scarce except in bucchero, and proposes that throughout the seventh and sixth centuries, as the Etruscan pantheon was slowly established, strongly influenced by the Greek, the old Potnia Theron seems to have been subsumed, possibly into aspects of more than one deity but including Ishtar/Astarte or Uni, Artemis/Artumes, or perhaps Vei/Ceres.
What Sybille Haynes sagely comments about Etruscan Orientalizing nude females of ivory and gold is relevant for female divinities of the period more generally: “It is possible that these images corresponded to preexisting concepts of nature divinities flanked by birds and quadrupeds that figured in earlier representations on open worked bronze vessels found as far apart as Bisenzio, Bologna, and Spadarolo.”
The hares, too, are critical to the identity of 77.AO.82. They bear a strong stylistic similarity to the lions of the group (77.AO.81.2 and 77.AO.81.3, cat. nos. 5 and 6), especially in the detail of the line separating the faces from the upper part of the head, and to the comparisons presented for them in the catalogue entries below. Both in style and subject, they relate to the pairs of lions held by Potnia Theron figures molded on the handles of a series of bucchero kyathoi from Chiusi and Poggio Civitate. (See cat. nos. 5 and 6 for further discussion.)
Hares are an uncommon subject of jewelry and amulets in the art of Greece and ancient Italy, but they are much more commonly represented in vase painting of the seventh and sixth centuries. The few early examples of the hare as a subject of an Etruscan object of adornment (amulet, pendant, or ring) stand out. One is a tiny ivory pendant-amulet from Murlo, which this author identifies as a curled-up, couchant hare. Another is a carved carnelian with a crouching hare.
The hares of 77.AO.82 are not newborns but large, mature animals. Wild hares, such as the indigenous Italian Lepus corsicanus and the Lepus europaeus, may grow to 75 cm in length. (It should be noted that the females of the Italian hare are larger than the males of the species.) “When going it springs,” says Xenophon of the hare; “no one has ever seen or will ever see a hare walking.” Hares possess excellent senses of sight, smell, and hearing; they were the fastest of the wild animals of ancient Italy; and they can dodge and change direction quickly or dive into streams if needed, as they are able swimmers.
A successful chase would no doubt attest to the hunter’s great fleetness of foot, command of the coursers, perhaps, and success with the throwing stick. Catching a hare might also be the result of a good snare. The hares of 77.AO.82 are in a crouching pose, alert yet carried head downward and encircled in the arms of the smaller figure, emphasizing the power of the hunter.
The wide-open eyes of the hares may specifically allude to the ancient belief that the animal slept with its eyes open and was thus always vigilant. Since the hare is also a burrower, a creature that moves between the earth and the subterranean realm, it had, like the snake, chthonic associations.
Hares rarely accompany figures in the mastery pose. Lions are the most common subject, long-necked waterfowl (especially waders) the second most common, and horses the third. There appears to be but one extant example of a hare-grasping female divinity: the main subject of the handle of a Laconian mid-sixth-century bronze hydria found at Grächwil, Switzerland. The figure, called by some scholars Artemis and by others Potnia Theron, stands atop lions and bearded snakes and holds a pair of live hares firmly in her hands, one head upward and the other head downward. A raptor is perched atop her crown.
In some societies today, birds and hares are among the first wild prey children learn to hunt, chase, or trap. Of course, hare hunting was not limited to the young in the ancient world; Xenophon’s Cynegiticus, for instance, is especially concerned with chasing hares. As an animal of the wild, the hare belonged to the deities of the hunt. Xenophon recommends that a hound be loosed on a hare only after registering a vow to Apollo and Artemis the Huntress, and that hunters dedicate newborn hares to Artemis. Not only did Artemis watch over the newborn, as noted above; she also protected the unborn. Callimachus, writing in the third century and drawing on a wealth of ancient tradition, claims that Artemis’s main pursuits are “the bow and the shooting of hares and the spacious dance and sport upon the mountains.” Callimachus also refers to Artemis as Chitone, and his Artemis asks Zeus: “Give me to gird me a tunic with embroidered border reaching to the knee, that I may slay wild beasts.”
If the hare-tamer of 77.AO.82 does represent Artemis, or a related female divinity, the emphasis is on her aspect as young virgin goddess of the hunt, a double-edged role: as a fertility deity, she ensures the hunt and the well-being, safety, and reproduction of wild fauna, but as a huntress herself, she is lethal. If the amber represents Potnia Theron, the hares may underline her chthonic aspect. The Grächwil hydria handle may exemplify this. The fauna around the divinity represent her broad influence: she controls the earth dwellers, the lions; those who live both above and below the earth, the hares and snakes; and the hunter in the sky, the raptor—whose prey can be all creatures of the underground, the earth, and the sky. The hares and snakes reiterate the connection of the divinity with the realm below.
Hunting itself connects two realms, the outside, the wild, the nonlocal, and the unfamiliar with the inside, the domestic, the local, and the familiar, as Mary Helms suggests. Hunters are often seen as shamans who mediate between these two worlds and have the uncommon ability to participate in unknown worlds.
In Egypt, the hare was the sacred animal of Wenet, an anthropomorphic goddess who wore a standard on her head with a recumbent hare. According to Plutarch, the Egyptians esteemed the hare as a symbol of divine qualities because of its swiftness and acute senses. The relation of the hare to Osiris, which has been variously affirmed, is unexplained but may have to do with the animal’s burrowing. In Greece, the hare is linked with other female and male divinities as well. One of the earliest marble korai, a headless figure from Samos (Berlin, Staatliche Museen 1750), holds a young hare. Previously interpreted as an offerant to Aphrodite, it has now been associated with Hera. Another Samian statuette of a kore holding a hare, a recent find, has also been considered a votive gift to Hera. A marble kore consecrated in the Milesian sanctuary of Artemis Kithone/Chitone holds a bird in her hand; Katerina Karakasi interprets this kore as not only venerating Artemis as a fertility and vegetation goddess, but also as goddess of the hunt.
If the amber tamer is male, the hares may indicate a hunter-tamer, and Artemis’s brother may be called up. Dionysos, too, is associated with the hare: youths carry dead hares in the company of the god, and on two vases of the Amasis Painter, women (maenads) bring live hares to Dionysos, and on a vase by Lydos, a small satyr leans down to pet a hare in a scene with Dionysos and his entourage. Is the hare held by a maenad in the presence of Dionysos on the black-figure neck-amphora in Paris (attributed to the Amasis Painter) a gift to the god or an emblem of the wild nature of the god’s followers? However, as T. H. Carpenter points out, there does not seem to be a “consistent pattern of use for the hare in early Dionysian scenes.”
The Etruscan aspects of 77.AO.82 suggest that the subject had particular relevance in Etruria, and more particularly in central, internal Etruria. Might it represent a native Italian divinity such as that represented by the Vatican “Herakles” or the Portonaccio terracotta? Or could it be a rare illustration of one of the indigenous male hero-divinities that became absorbed into the Etruscan Hercle of the fifth century?
On balance, given the ancient connection between amber and divinities of light, the iconographic and stylistic connections of 77.AO.82 to the Artemis Orthia ivories, the Laconian Grächwil hydria, the Lusoi bronzes, and the Samian bronze girl, the evidence seems to support a female identity for the figure. The pendant may represent the Greek (Laconian?) Artemis accommodated to a native female hunting divinity, one traditionally represented in the Potnia Theron schema. Whichever hunting divinity is represented, the pendant would offer protection. If Artemis, she would offer special protection for women in childbirth, not just because of her skill in midwifery, but also because she offers death to women for whom the pain of childbirth would be too great. In the Iliad Hera reminds Artemis, “It was against women that Zeus made you a lion, and granted that you might kill whichever ones you choose.” This more violent side of Artemis, from as early as the seventh century, fueled apotropaic magic, and medicine. In late antiquity, Artemis the bow-bearer was called upon in “aggressive” magic and medicine as quite literally a “pain-killer.” So, too, were Apollo and Herakles. In the rituals of death and in the tomb itself, this ornament-amulet would have offered protection of the most powerful sort. Still to be resolved is the possible relationship of this image with the iconography of the Hittite child. Might this figure, too, incorporate something of the miraculous-child concept?
Throughout antiquity, the hare’s proverbial fertility made it a rejuvenating symbol, and it was used in direct magic to ensure regeneration. As an ornament, this large, shining amber carving must have made a great impression with its potent imagery; as an amulet, it would have served its owner(s) well in life and death. Among the few examples of amber hare pendants is another pendant in the Getty (79.AO.75.28, cat. no. 30), a “doubled” fertility amulet combining a hare and a cowrie. In magical terms, the hares of 77.AO.82 may have mirrored, increased, or focused the fertility and healing aspects of the divinity they refer to, accelerating the speed with which the pendant could ward away danger (a hare’s foot gives the owner the animal’s fleetness of foot) or promote rapid healing.