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Culture:Roman; Palmyrene
Title:Funerary relief bust of a woman
Date Made:3rd century CE
Materials:limestone relief
Place Made:Roman Empire; Levant; Syria: Palmyra
Accession Number:  AC 1942.78
Credit Line:Museum purchase
Museum Collection:  Mead Art Museum at Amherst College

Label Text:
Abundant jewelry and the elegant veiled dress emphasize the affluence of this woman, whose name was probably recorded in the Aramaic inscription on the upper left. During the second and third centuries, Palmyra was a flourishing trading center on the caravan route from the Mediterranean to Asia, and many of its merchant citizens profited by collecting tariffs on goods in transit. Wealthy families erected monumental funerary towers in which portrait reliefs marked the many interior burial spaces.

Palmyrene funerary sculpture, originally colorfully painted, combines elements of Classical naturalism with an eastern provincial fondness for stiff frontality and patterned ornament. In the hands of local sculptors, the reliefs became generic representations of aristocrats, rather than realistic portraits of individuals.

portraits; women; fashion

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