Ancient Art
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Subject: Abuna

Funerary Relief of Abuna, Daughter of Nabuna

ca. A.D. 170–230

Limestone with traces of red paint

52.5 x 43 x 19.5 cm (20 11/16 x 16 15/16 x 7 11/16 in.)
Gift of Edward B. Greene
1930.6
This limestone relief shows the bust of a woman elegantly dressed in a tunic and cloak, the latter garment pulled up over the back of her head to form a veil, which she holds back from her face with her left hand. Between the thumb and forefinger of her right hand, she holds an end of the cloak in which her right arm is enveloped. She wears several pieces of jewelry, including a large, round brooch pinned on her left shoulder, two rings on the pinky of her left hand, a necklace with an ovoid pendant, and a pair of large earrings, as well as a headdress with geometric and floral ornament. Wavy locks of hair flow from beneath the headdress out toward both sides of her head, disappearing behind the veil. Very large, almond-shaped eyes with incised irises and pupils are the most prominent features of her full face. An inscription in Aramaic over her left shoulder identifies the woman: “Abuna, daughter of Nabuna, son of Anini. Alas!” Such inscriptions, celebrating the family lineage of the subject, are commonly found on Palmyrene reliefs, which served as grave markers for those wealthy enough to afford sculpted funerary monuments. For much of the second and third century A.D., the merchant class of Palmyra amassed considerable wealth, capitalizing on the city’s location along an important Near Eastern trade route. These reliefs, like much ancient sculpture, were originally painted to heighten their immediacy. Traces of red paint remain visible on this relief.
Culture: 
Palmyra
Period: 
Roman
Classification: 
Sculpture
Status: 
On view
Bibliography: 

Harald Ingholt, Palmyrene and Gandharan Sculpture: An Exhibition Illustrating the Cultural Interrelations Between the Parthian Empire and Its Neighbors West and East, Palmyra and Gandhara, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1954), no. 13.

Malcolm Colledge, The Art of Palmyra (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976), 67–73.

Handbook of the Collections (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 267, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.

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