Egyptian or Roman
Woman Arranging Hair, Aphrodite or Venus Anadyomene Type, 300 BCE-300 CE
Hellenistic or Roman
Egypt, Middle Egypt, Al Fayyūm
4 × 3 ¾ × 2 in. (10.2 × 9.5 × 5.1 cm)
3-D Object/Sculpture
1972-62.43 DJ

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This fragmentary figure represents one of the many depictions of the Aphrodite Anadyomene (“Rising from the Sea”) type. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love (known as Venus in Roman mythology), was born of the sea fully grown according to the ancient Greek poet Hesiod. Beginning in the Hellenistic period (ca. 300 BCE), depictions often represent the goddess wringing out her hair after bathing or emerging from the ocean. There are many variations on this theme, including versions where she wears a diadem and has a cloak (known as a himation) around her waist or hips; where she stands, sits, or crouches; or where she holds objects and appears with other figures. During the Ptolemaic period (305–30 BCE), the cult of Aphrodite was particularly popular in Egypt, when many figures like this were produced.  

This is one of the terracottas in the Menil Collection that was once part of the collection of Dr. Daniel Marie Fouquet (1850–1914). It appears as object no. 9 in the catalogue of his terracottas published posthumously in 1921 by Paul Perdrizet. The catalogue lists the provenience as the Fayoum (modern-day Al Fayyūm), an oasis in Middle Egypt where many so-called “Fayum portraits” of mummified individuals have been found. This object has an old cloth collection label on which “189, Fayom” is written. The origins of this label are unknown, but several other objects in the collection have a similarly written number. On most of these objects, it is written directly on the piece but there are three other examples with the same cloth label. The numbers on some of the objects appear in archival records, indicating they are Fouquet’s inventory system, although this specific number does not appear in the extant documents.