Chryselephantine figurine of a woman - ROM2017_15691_1


Chryselephantine figurine of a woman

Medium:Carved ivory, hammered gold, and gold nails
Geography: Probably made on Crete, Greece; findspot unknown
Date: Early 20th century AD or about 1600 BC
Period: Possible modern forgery representing an artifact of the Middle Minoan III period
19.1 × 12.5 × 3.9 cm
Object number: 931.21.1
Not on view

Ivory figurine of a woman with a costume made of gold of unknown use and date.

In 1931, ROM Museum director Charles T. Currelly was eager to buy this little ivory and gold (chryselephantine) figurine. Today, it is among the most controversial objects in the ROM's archaeological collection and is rarely displayed.

When it was purchased, this was thought to be a Minoan antiquity made around 1600 BC near Knossos on Crete. The Minoan civilization was only rediscovered in excavations by Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos in the early 20th century AD. Although the ROM figurine was not from these excavations, when it appeared on the art market in 1930 Evans identified her as the Minoan goddess of the bull leapers, comparing the costume with that of bull-leaping acrobats on several Minoan wall-paintings. He named her "Our Lady of the Sports".

More recently, Evans' opinions have been questioned, and some Minoan artifacts without any known excavation context which were acquired in the early 20th century are now believed to be forgeries made by the Cretan workmen who worked on the Knossos excavations. Among these suspected forgeries are several gold and ivory figurines. After nearly 90 years, the age of this ivory 'goddess' is still debated.


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