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Relief of a Copulating Couple

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: 19th Dynasty to Roman Period, Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Gallery, 3rd Floor
The purpose or symbolism of this relief is not clear. Perhaps it was a votive offering in a temple, a household item, or a tomb deposit. It may have conveyed the idea of rebirth through sexual regeneration. The affectionate gesture of the man, placing his hands on the woman’s cheek, is most unusual. The significance of what appears to be a bird and of a largely destroyed image of another animal is unknown. The shape of the heads, the style of the wigs, and the robustness of the bodies are characteristic of art of the Ptolemaic period.
MEDIUM Limestone
  • Place Found: Egypt
  • DATES 305-30 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY Dynasty 30, or later
    PERIOD Ptolemaic Period
    DIMENSIONS base: 6 5/16 x 5 7/16 in. (16 x 13.8 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Erotic sculpture in limestone. On a roughtly square plaque or base a nude man and woman in the round facing and lying on their sides. Pillow under man's head. Incomplete animal(s) at lower right corner. Base painted light blue. Remains of red paint on bodies, black on woman's wig. Condition: Poor. Lower left corner lost. Man's right arm lost. Lower right corner broken and reset. Scattered chips, paint lost, etc.
    CAPTION Relief of a Copulating Couple, 305-30 B.C.E. Limestone, base: 6 5/16 x 5 7/16 in. (16 x 13.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 60.181. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.60.181_wwgA-2.jpg)
    IMAGE installation, West Wing gallery A-2 installation, CUR.60.181_wwgA-2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2005
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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