Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Female Votive Statuette
Work Type
statuette, sculpture
late 5th-2nd century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Hispania
Iron Age
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Cast, lost-wax process
8.7 cm (3 7/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, nickel, silver, antimony

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is dark green with brown burial accretions. The proper left hand and the front of both feet are broken off and missing. The head is broken off at the neck and repaired with adhesive and modern fill material. The surface shows some pitting but is well preserved. Black spots of modern sulfide corrosion are present, especially on the head.

The figurine is a solid cast, probably from a model made by working directly in wax that included most of the details. The face, hair, and some of the elements of the clothing have been enhanced by cold working. The braids on the chest were formed directly in the wax model.

Henry Lie (submitted 2011)

National Archaeological Museum of Spain, (by 1933), by exchange; to the Fogg Art Museum.

Excavated at the sanctuary site of Collado de los Jardines, Jaén, in the early 1900s.

Note: In exchange for a Sepulchral slab from the Cemetery at Sahagun, Leon, Spain.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of The Republic of Spain through the Museo Arqueologico Nacional and Professor A. Kingsley Porter
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This female offerant wears a low, curved, and uncovered headdress (1). It seems to be made of five bands, although it also resembles coiled braids. The back of the headdress is completely flat and featureless. Below the front of the headdress, a row of U-shaped curls of hair is visible. Her facial features are very large, especially her eyes and mouth. Her chin is small and curved. There is a long braid hanging down from each side of her head. Each braid is missing a segment between the chin and shoulders; the ends are visible on the front of the rather barrel-like torso. Her neck is narrower and more rounded than that of other examples. She wears a long form-fitting dress with short sleeves. Over the dress, she wears a circular band that loops once around each shoulder and twists in a crisscross in the back. She wears a broad belt over her unnaturally narrow waist, below which the dress widens again (2). The dress flares out again above the ankles. Her short upper arms are held pressed against her sides with the forearms held at waist level. In the upward palm of her right hand is a small circular offering, perhaps a fruit or roll. Separate fingers are indicated. Her small feet are completely separated, and the toes of each foot seem to be missing.

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 (3). Many of the statuettes depict individuals, some of whom are represented in poses of prayer or offering (4). Some are very abstract and schematically rendered, while others wear identifiable contemporary clothing (5). 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 (6).


1. Compare L. Prados Torreira, Exvotos ibericos de bronce del Museo Arqueologico Nacional (Madrid, 1992) 217-18, nos. 549-54; and R. Lantier, Bronzes votifs ibériques (Paris, 1935) nos. 213-14, pl. 16.

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. See F. Álvarez-Ossorio, Bronces ibéricos o hispánicos del Museo Arqueológico Nacional (Madrid, 1935) 20-27; id., Catálogo de los exvotos de bronce ibéricos (Madrid, 1941); 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. 1992 (supra 1); 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.

4. 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.
5. See, for example, this piece or 1933.134.

6. 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

Publication History

"Collections and Critiques", The Harvard Crimson, Dec. 12, 1935

Lourdes Prados Torreira, "La coleccion de bronces ibericos del Peabody Museum de Harvard", Bronces y Religion Romana: Actas del XI Congreso Internacional de Bronces Antiguos, Madrid, Mayo-Junio 1990, ed. J. Arce and F. Burkhalter, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (Madrid, 1993), 361-67, p. 362, no. 1, fig. 1.

Robert H. Tykot, Lourdes Prados Torreira, and Miriam S. Balmuth, "Iberian bronze figurines: technological and stylistic analysis", From the Parts to the Whole: Acta of the 13th International Bronze Congress, ed. Carol C. Mattusch, Amy Brauer, and Sandra E. Knudsen, Journal of Roman Archaeology (Portsmouth, RI, 2000), vol. 2, p. 27-30, no. 128, fig. 1.

Ángela Franco, "Arte medieval leonés fuera de España", La dispersión de objetos de arte fuera de España en los siglos XIX y XX, ed. Fernando Pérez Mulet and Immaculada Socias Batet, Edicions Universitat Barcelona (Barcelona, 2011), 93-132, p. 115 n.64.

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

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