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Gallery Text

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin that has been used for thousands of years to make objects as diverse as sculpture and figurines, weapons and armor, and jewelry and tableware. The addition of tin and sometimes lead made the alloy more versatile and lowered its melting point; another common copper alloy is brass (copper and zinc), which was in widespread use in the Roman period. Although other materials, like stone, glass, and terracotta, were available, copper alloy items were valued for their golden sheen, versatility, and durability. The material lent prestige and beauty to objects like these statuettes, most of which would have been dedicated to the gods. Modern bronzes are often artificially patinated, like the Rodin sculpture in this colonnade. While ancient bronzes were sometimes gilded or deliberately darkened, the unaltered surfaces naturally acquired a red, green, or brown patina over time.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Female Worshipper
Other Titles
Former Title: Female Statuette
Work Type
sculpture, statuette
16th-mid 15th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Crete
Minoan period, Late
Level 3, Room 3200, Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Art, Classical Sculpture
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Cast, lost-wax process
6.7 x 3.2 x 3 cm (2 5/8 x 1 1/4 x 1 3/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 91.7; Sn, 7.08; Pb, 0.26; Zn, 0.02; Fe, 0.11; Ni, 0.17; Ag, 0.04; Sb, 0.07; As, 0.53; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.033; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001

J. Riederer

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

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is black and green with brown burial accretions. The statuette appears to be intact, but lighter green corrosion pits mar the appearance of the upper front surfaces. The incised lines have been cleaned out with a hard point, resulting in slight surface damage there. There are linear marks on the skirt from modern cleaning.

The statuette was cast by the lost-wax process with a solid upper body and a hollow skirt. Although there are no wax drip marks on the interior, the surface there is not inconsistent with wax poured into a mold, which therefore indicates an indirect process. The hollow skirt of the figure is c. 4 mm thick. The decorative incisions for the facial features and clothing were probably made in the wax model but could have been reinforced in the bronze. This is difficult to judge in part due to the modern cleaning.

Tracy Richardson and Henry Lie (submitted 1999, updated 2005)

Leo Mildenberg, Zurich, Switzerland, (by 1960), sold; to Fogg Art Museum, 1975.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Purchase through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin L. Weisl, Jr. and the David M. Robinson Fund
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 statuette of a standing woman wears a hollow skirt with an oval cavity that extends from the bottom partially into the interior. There are no feet; the figure rests on the bottom of the skirt. The long oval skirt is marked by pairs of grooves on both sides and a pair of incised grooves in the center of the front. A pair of rope-like belts encircles the top of the skirt below her narrow waist. She wears a long-sleeved open-breasted jacket similar to others that are seen in bronze statuettes as well as in wall paintings from Cretan sites and from Akrotiri on Thera (1). Her hair hangs down the back of her neck in a knotted curl. Her face is rounded with fairly indistinct features. She raises her right hand, fist clenched, to her forehead; her left arm hangs down by her side to below the belts. There are two raised grooves on both wrists, denoting either bracelets or the cuffs of her jacket.

This statuette belongs to an important category of cast-bronze figures of women produced in workshops on the island of Crete between c. 1650 and 1400 BCE (2). They range from crude miniatures to figures c. 15 cm in height, such as the impressive statuette of a woman in Berlin who also holds her right fist to her forehead (3). However, she folds her left hand across her breast and bends slightly forward, producing a feeling of tense power that is lacking in the vertical stance of the Harvard statuette. The meaning of the fist-to-forehead gesture remains unclear. Most scholars have interpreted it as a ritual gesture of prayer or adoration, but there is no conclusive evidence to prove this. While it seems likely that statuettes with this gesture represent mortal women, perhaps devotees of a particular cult or priestesses, there is the possibility that at least some of them might portray goddesses. This statuette likely dates to c. 1600 to 1500 BCE, and it must come from one of the bronze-casting workshops on Crete active at this time. Where the contexts are known, these statuettes occur both in cave sanctuaries and in palace or villa sites. Other contexts will undoubtedly emerge with further excavation.


1. See S. Hemingway, “The Minoan Bronze Votive Statue of a Woman at the Harvard Museum,” Teaching with Objects: The Curatorial Legacy of David Gordon Mitten, ed. A. Brauer (Cambridge, MA, 2010) 138-39.

2. For other bronze statuettes from Crete, see C. Verlinden, Les statuettes anthropomorphes crétoises en bronze et en plomb, du IIIe millénaire au VII siècle av. J.-C., Archaeologia Transatlantica 4 (Providence, 1984).

3. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, inv. no. Misc. 8092; see Verlinden 1984 (supra 2) no. 33, pl. 16.

David G. Mitten

Publication History

David Gordon Mitten, "A Minoan Bronze Statuette at the Fogg Art Museum", Fogg Art Museum Annual Report (1974-1976), No. 1974/1976, p. 48-55., Figs. 1-7.

George M. A. Hanfmann and David Gordon Mitten, "The Art of Classical Antiquity", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 362-369, p. 9, fig. 2.

Colette Verlinden, Les statuettes anthropomorphes crétoises en bronze et en plomb, du III millénaire au VII siècle av. J.-C., Brown University Center for Old World Archaeology and Art (Providence, RI, 1984), p. 196, no. 67.

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), p. 98, no. 108, ill.

Efi Sapouna-Sakellarakis, Die bronzenen Menschenfiguren auf Kreta und in der Ägäis, F. Steiner (Stuttgart, 1995), p. 96-97, no. 170, pl. 15, no. 170.

Oliver Lennox, "In the Coin Room: An Interview with Professor David G. Mitten", Persephone, Puritan Press (Hollis, NH, 2002), p. 71

[Reproduction Only], Persephone, (Hollis, NH, Fall 2002)., p. 71.

Séan Hemingway, "The Minoan Bronze Votive Statuette of a Woman at the Harvard Art Museum", Teaching with Objects: The Curatorial Legacy of David Gordon Mitten, ed. Amy Brauer, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2010), pp. 134-147, fig. 1.

Séan Hemingway, "The Age of Bronze in Greece, Cyprus, and the Near East", Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, ed. Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 20-37, pp. 32-33, fig. 1.8.

Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), pp. 32-33, fig. 1.8

Exhibition History

Intimate Rituals and Personal Devotions: Spiritual Art Through the Ages, Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainsville, 07/16/2000 - 01/14/2001

32Q: 3200 West Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Google Art Project

Ancient Bronzes

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu