Howard Nowes - 10/02/2019
Domestic and Heavenly Goddesses, Howard Nowes Ancient Art gallery exhibition on women in ancient art in 2006
Many ancient cultures celebrated their religion with festivals in which they offered gifts to their women, divine and domestic. When a person died their tomb was filled with grave goods, including female images as votive offerings, decorations and beloved tokens of their time on earth. Tombs, temples and middens have preserved many of the lovely ladies presented to you in this exhibition. These precious figures are not just beautiful to behold, but they also played a key role in myth, religion and daily life.
The Asian pantheon is filled with multiple female goddesses from heaven and earth - whether it is Hindu, Buddhist, Jain or the Indus river valley civilizations that preceded all of them. In India, one of the earliest goddesses depicted is Durga, manifested as a protective Mother Goddess. Later are images of Yamunda, Yakshi a benevolent female, and a river-goddess called Ganga. There are beautiful female Tantric Buddhist images such as Tara, Savari or the spouse in a Yab Yum embrace. Then in the Khmer culture of Cambodia, the goddesses are depicted as alluring and celestial maidens with long skirts and full bosoms.
Also, the female form is proudly represented in tribal art through ancestor worship and in societal rites. These women are seen as the cornerstones of their respective societies, and they are depicted as generally nude, with full breasts and protruding navels. In West Africa, the Mende Tribe has a powerful and sacred female Bundu society in which the helmet masks all depict females. In the Ivory Coast, the women of the Dan culture are especially admired for their domestic skills. Here they are presented with a wunkirle, an oversized, wooden spoon featuring a strong female carving as the handle.
Many remarkable female representations also hail from Latin America. I am especially proud to present an exquisite group of Tlatilco female figurines from the central highlands of Pre Columbian Mexico. They are charming bare breasted, wide hipped, and smiling ladies. This Tlatilco site yielded almost in its entirety small pottery female figurines or Pretty Ladies, as they have become known. Additionally, I am pleased to exhibit four excellent examples of red painted Early Chupicuaro females from a New York Collection. These bold geometric figures yield from West Mexico and exemplify the characteristic style of the culture. Tribute must be paid to Ecuador, where the Valdivian Venuses are the earliest form of human representation in the Americas, long before the Chavin in Peru or the Olmec in Mexico.
This exhibition contains an exciting collection of ceramic, stone, wood and bronze females ranging from the early Indus Valley to African tribal carvings and ceramic figurines from the Americas, spanning over five millennia of history. It was a joy to produce this catalog, which not only is a display of a variety of affordable sculptures of the female as she is proudly represented, but a heartfelt tribute to the timeless Feminine Divine. Today, her context should be in your collection.