- Museum number
Female figure engraved on the bottom of a broken lamp made on a slab of limestone naturally dished on one side. The centre of the dished area is blackened by burning indicating its use as a lamp. On the opposite, flat surface there is an engraving of a female figure shown in profile. The engraving is centred on the existing surface suggesting the re-use of the slab after the lamp was broken along is longest axis. The figure has no head. Her upper body is shown as two slightly inclined, parallel lines. The back line slopes down then curves out to show the essentially feminine curve of her bottom and thigh. The front line slopes in suggesting a flat stomach then curves out to form the thigh. It joins the line of the back at the knee. The lower legs are indicated by the extension of these lines. A small triangle on the front of the upper body may depict a breast or the figure may have her arms extended in front of her. The front and back lines are continuous and confidently drawn.
Length: 230 millimetres
Weight: 2318.30 grammes
Thickness: 52 millimetres
Width: 145 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Blurton 1997
The earliest art recovered in the archaeological record of Europe appears after the arrival of fully modern humans c.35,000 years ago. Although animals predominate, human representations, particularly those of women, are present. Between c.28,000-16,000 BC female figures are often represented in voluptuous, perhaps naturalistic, statuettes and bas-reliefs. Later (c. 10,500-8500 BC) a different style of female representation appears in engravings and miniature carvings. Sexuality is expressed with a simplicity of line which may belie a remarkable achievement in abstraction.
This engraving from Courbet belongs to the later style. It occurs on the flat face of a naturally dished slab used as a lamp before being broken. The integrity and positioning of the figure suggests that the engraving post-dates the use and breakage of the lamp. The upper part of the body is formed by two parallel lines at an angle which may suggest the figure is bending forward. The line of the back curves out to form the ample shape of the buttocks and thigh. A small triangle on the front of the upper body may be a breast or the arms of the figure, perhaps outstretched in a dance gesture. Additional lines, below the waist, suggest a skirt or apron. Lacking a head and lower legs, the figure is typical of female representations known from late glacial sites in southwest Germany and France. Whether it had a particular function or significance is unknown.
This is the entry written by Jill Cook for the catalogue edited by Blurton which accompanied the Human Image exhibition shown in New Delhi, India in 1997.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2013 24 Jun-16 Sep, Spain, Santander, Fundación Botín, Ice Age Art
2013 7 Feb-26 May, London, BM Ice Age Art
2010 Apr-Jun, Leeds, Henry Moore Institute, Ice Age Sculpture
1998 9 Feb-3 May, India, Mumbai, Sir Caswasjee Jahangir Hall, The Enduring Image
1997 13 Oct-1998 5 Jan, India, New Delhi, National Museum, The Enduring Image
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Registered in 1864 as a lamp, the engraving on the underside was not discovered until 1991.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 1864.1226.1124