She is depicted facing frontally, seated on a block stool. Her arms are bent at the elbow with the forearms reaching forward, the hands now lost. The angular torso with small breasts, her stylised face with incised brows and pupils, a long nose and small mouth. The face has the remains of a resinous substance.
Condition: Losses to the hands and feet. Wear, pitting and chipping throughout. Resin remaining on the face. Mounted.
Difilippantonio Collection, Pennsylvania, formed in the 1980s - 1990s, thence by descent in 2016
Ancient South Arabia was famous in the ancient world as an important source of valuable incense and perfume, and was described by classical writers as 'Arabia Felix' (Fortunate Arabia) because of its fertility. Several important kingdoms flourished there between 1000 BC and the rise of Islam in the sixth century AD, including Saba, which is referred to as Sheba in the Bible. This wonderfully abstract figure is typical of those produced in ancient South Arabian for votive or funerary purposes.
There is a statue of a similar date in the British Museum (acc. no.1924,1209.4) which also has the remains of a layer of bitumen on the face. Chemical analysis of that work has shown that the black hair and the brown coating on the face both contain plant oils and conifer resins. They could be conifer resin varnishes mixed with oils, or they could be formed from oil, perfumed with resin, and applied in thick layers. Cf. S. Simpson, Queen of Sheba: Treasures from Ancient Yemen, 2002, p. 193, no. 268.