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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Votive figure

Photo: Paul Macapia

Votive figure

ca. 2900 - 2500 B.C.

Is this man smarter than the gods?

A portrait from a time before the concept existed, this small Sumerian sculpture was meant to be a man’s exact double. Commissioned by a wealthy patron from a workshop of artisans, this votive figure would have been left in a temple by its owner. The statue’s supplicant pose, hands locked in constant devotion, was a clever attempt to deceive the gods into thinking that it was the man himself who dwelt in the temple in perpetuity. While the gods had the power to bless or disrupt all elements of life in the ancient Near East, people believed that they could fool the gods into believing that they were their stone doubles, and that the gods would therefore shower them with favor and success for their constant piety.

11 1/4 x 5 x 3 7/8 in. (28.58 x 12.7 x 9.84 cm)
Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection
Provenance: [H.F. Sachs, New York, by 1941]; purchased by the Seattle Art Museum (with funds from Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection), January 1941
Photo: Paul Macapia
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Published ReferencesFuller, Richard E. Seattle Art Museum. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1946, p. 20

Handbook, Seattle Art Museum: Selected Works from the Permanent Collections. Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1951, p. 12 (b&w)

SAM Guild, Engagement Calendar, (1953), no. 34.

Frankfort, H., Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient, (1954), pp. 22-31; pl.21.

Williams, W.C., Light shed on the Bible, International Journal of Religions Education, February 1963, p. 29.

Encyclopaedia of World Art (1959), Vol. I. "Asia, West: Ancient Art". pp. 859-863.

Strayer, Pamela, "Figure 41. Pls II.8 of the Seattle Art Museum" (1969), U.W. term paper, Ancient Art History.

"Seattle Art Museum: Bridging Cultures." London: Scala Publishers Ltd. for the Seattle Art Museum, 2007, p. 53

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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