Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
The warrior stands frontally, feet on a circular base, with a dagger held to his chest (1). The top of his head is smooth and round, and it is encircled by a band or diadem. There are looped coils around the back of the head, indicating hair or styled braids. His facial features are elongated and rather flat. The wide eyes are incised, while the nose and mouth are modeled. The features from his forehead to the bottom of his nose are slightly raised from the base level of the face, giving the figure the appearance of wearing a mask. The man is clad in a short V-neck tunic. The short sleeves are decorated with molded bands above the elbow, and the hem has a wide, incised herringbone pattern. The narrow waist is encircled by a wide belt with molded bands on the back and a large rectangular clasp on the front (2). He holds his left arm pressed against his side, completely joined to the torso. His palm is placed on his left hip with fingers splayed. The upper right arm is also pressed against his side and part of his torso; the arm is bent upward at the elbow, and the figure clenches a dagger, possibly unfinished, in his right fist and holds it diagonally across his chest. The legs are completely separated below the hem of the tunic and are modeled in the round. The lower legs are rather muscular compared to the other Iberian statuettes. His knees are slightly indicated, and the leg tapers toward the ankles. His feet are pressed flat on the circular base, which is integral with the figure (3). Separate toes are indicated by incision. When upright, the figure appears to lean forward (4). The statuette is modeled in the round.
Thousands of small, anthropomorphic copper alloy statuettes and anatomical votives have been recovered from remote sanctuary sites in south-central Spain, particularly Collado de los Jardines and Castellar de Santisteban, but it is not certain to which god or gods they were dedicated (5). Many of the statuettes depict individuals, some of whom are represented in poses of prayer or offering (6). Some are very abstract and schematically rendered, while others wear identifiable contemporary clothing (7). In spite of the similarity of the votives, there is nothing to indicate that the intention behind each offering was the same. This example is most likely from the cave sanctuary of Collado de los Jardines near Santa Elena, Jaén. It was given to Harvard in 1933 by the Republic of Spain in exchange for the cover of the eleventh-century sarcophagus of Alfonso Ansúrez from Sahagún, León, which was then in the collection of the Fogg Art Museum (8).
1. The best comparison is F. Álvarez-Ossorio, Catalogo de los exvotos de bronce, ibericos, Museo Arqueologico Nacional (Madrid, 1941) no. 222, pl. 36, although it is on a square base.
2. An epitome describing the Iberians preserved from Nicholas of Damascus’ universal history notes that the Iberians had a belt of a certain size, and it was considered unseemly if anyone could not fit in it; see Nicolai Damasceni Historiarum excerpta et fragmenta quae supersunt Graece (Lipsiae/Leipzig, 1804) 142-45 “Iberi/Ιβηροι.” The first-century BCE geographer Strabo has a longer description of this custom. He remarks that another geographer, Ephorus, extended the boundaries of the Celts too far and included the Iberians, and then he notes that these people “take great care not to become too fat or big-bellied, and that if any young man exceeds the measure of a certain girdle, he is punished” (Strabo, 4.4.6). Despite the confusion about whether this anecdote refers to the Celts or the Iberians, this detail appears to correspond to the account of Nicholas and is illustrated by the attire of statuettes like this one.
3. For similar bases, although of different statuette types, see L. Prados Torreira, Exvotos ibericos de bronce del Museo Arqueologico Nacional (Madrid, 1992) 184-85, nos. 150-52.
4. Another statuette that holds its dagger at its side, similarly seems to lean forward and also has an unusually elaborately incised tunic; see ibid., 205, no. 394.
5. See F. Álvarez-Ossorio, Bronces ibéricos o hispánicos del Museo Arqueológico Nacional (Madrid, 1935) 20-27; id. 1941 (supra 1); L. Prados Torreira, “Los exvotos anatomicos del santuario iberico de Collado de los Jardines (Sta. Elena, Jaén),” Trabajos de prehistoria 48 (1991): 313-32; ead., Exvotos ibericos de bronce del Museo Arqueologico Nacional (Madrid, 1992); ead., “Los santuarios ibéricos: Apuntes para el desarrollo de una arqueología del culto,” Trabajos de prehistoria 51.1 (1994): 127-40; and G. Nicolini et al., El santuario ibérico de Castellar, Jaén: Intervenciones arqueológicas 1966-1991 (Seville, 2004) 160-64.
6. For discussions of the statuettes’ poses and gestures, see G. Nicolini, “Gestes et attitudes cultuels des figurines de bronze ibériques,” Mélanges de la Casa de Velázquez 4 (1968): 27-50; and C. Rueda Galán, “La mujer sacralizada: La presencia de las mujeres en los santuarios (lectura desde los exvotos de bronce iberos),” Complutum 18 (2007): 227-35.
7. See, for example, 1933.134.
8. See “Collections and Critiques,” The Harvard Crimson, Dec. 12, 1935; and Á. Franco, “Arte medieval leonés fuera de España,” in La dispersión de objetos de arte fuera de España en los siglos XIX y XX, eds. F. Pérez Mulet and I. Socias Batet (Barcelona, 2011) 93-132, esp. 113-16.
Lisa M. Anderson