- Museum number
Limestone bust from a Palmyrene funerary relief; half length; carved with beardless man; wears sleeved tunic with braided edges and groups of comb-pattern bars at the joined seams; over this a chlamys secured on the right shoulder; on the head a wreathed modius with a miniature bust in front; holds in left hand a pyxis containing fruit, embossed with bucrania and wreaths; on the right, a balsainary; behind, in the space to left of head is a small figure wearing peplos of a woman, holding in left hand, a duck; on the left is a bunch of grapes; head broken.
- Production date
Height: 63 centimetres
Weight: 120 kilograms
Width: 52.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- "Treasures of the World's Cultures: The British Museum after 250 Years" catalogue entry
Memorial portrait bust of priest
Syria, about AD 50-150
H63.0, W52.5 cm
Gift of Lady Howard de Walden
M A R Colledge, The Art of Palmyra (London, 1976)
Palmyra, a city in the Syrian Desert, grew rich from the caravan trade. It was incorporated into the Roman Empire by the end of the first century AD. The rich tombs of the Roman period, which were built outside the city, show a fascinating mix of local and Roman influences. This is a limestone bust from a Palmyrene funerary relief. It decorated the end of a cubiculum or small compartment within a tomb, and represented the dead person. This man is identified by his cylindrical hat as a priest. He also holds ritual vessels: a bowl, perhaps for fruit or grain, and a jug. On the left of the relief is a female figure wearing the long tunic known as a peplos. She is very much smaller than the priest, and is perhaps his daughter. Wives are frequently depicted beside their husbands on such reliefs, but usually on about the same scale.
The style of this sculpture, with protruding ears and the pupil and iris of the eye represented as engraved concentric circles, shows that it belongs to an early phase in the sculpting of such images.
There was a hierarchy of priests in each temple in Palmyra. One of the best known groups was the priests of Bel, the major deity of the city. They must have performed many of their rituals in the open air within the sanctuary courts. Sculptured monuments show that processions, sacrifices and ritual meals were important.
- On display (G70/od)
- Exhibition history
2007 3 Feb-27 May, Taipei, National Palace Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2006 18 Mar-4 Jun, Beijing, Capital Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2005 27 Oct-2006 31 Jan, Haengso Museum, Keimyung University, Daegu, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2005 25 Jul-8 Oct, Busan Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2005 11 Apr-10 Jul, Seoul Arts Centre, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 26 Jun-29 Aug, Niigata Bandaijima Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 10 Apr-13 Jun, Fukuoka Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 17 Jan-28 Mar, Kobe City Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2003 18 Oct-14 Dec, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
Room 57: Ancient Syria [Syrian Room], Easter 1982-.
- Incomplete; smaller female figure's head missing; numerous minor chips and scratches (2006 condition report).
- Acquisition date
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Excavation/small finds number: 583 (excavation number)
Miscellaneous number: SOC.39 (Semitic Old Collection registration number)