chapter  5
PRIESTESS AND PRINCESS: Patronage, portraiture, identity
Pages 25

During the second half of the third millennium BC an unparalleled number of images of women in the form of sculpture in the round were produced in southern Mesopotamia. These statues are generally unlike images of women in two-dimensional narrative art, whether political or religious, and they are also unlike images of female deities and female supernatural beings known primarily from the glyptic arts. Above all what sets these statues apart is not so much the medium of sculpture in the round as their function: they are images of real historical women, people who lived in antiquity and were represented in an image. The fact that these are statues of individuals places them into a genre of sculpture that is categorised as portraiture in art historical terms. But using this descriptive term ‘portrait’ immediately brings up a number of semiotic concerns. Portraiture is a problematic term when applied to Mesopotamian representations of individuals since the term portrait in its current usage commonly implies representation by means of external resemblance.