Female Head in Profile

25. Pendant: Female Head in Profile

Accession Number77.AO.81.30
Date500–480 B.C.
DimensionsHeight: 44 mm; width: 38 mm; depth: 16 mm; Diameter of suspension holes: 3.5 mm and 4 mm; Weight: 15.1 g
View in Collection


–1977, Gordon McLendon (Dallas, TX), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1977.


The surface of the amber is smooth and solid, but shows an uneven pattern of abrasion and loss of detail on the most prominent areas, suggesting use wear. Before purchase by the donor, the pendant was treated with a surface consolidant. There are several ancient breaks (they have the same degraded surface as the unbroken areas), including at the bridge of the nose and in a section on the reverse. There are small chips on the cheek. A more recent break at the back was reglued before the object’s arrival at the Getty Museum. On the reverse are three large depressions, possibly from the removal of flaws or fissures by the carver, or weathering losses. In ambient light, the piece is somewhat translucent and dark reddish brown; in transmitted light, it is red and fully translucent. There are no visible inclusions.


The pendant is composed of the head and a section of the neck of a female, carved from a relatively flat piece of amber. The figuration is on the obverse and the two sides. The back is plain, but uneven because of the shape of the original amber piece. The shallow crevices are the result of preparation of the amber nodule, by the removal of fissures or inclusions.

The figure’s brow is smooth and on the same plane as the mouth and nose. There is a groove above the large almond-shaped eye, and the eye’s outside corner is higher than the inner corner. The lids curve smoothly, taper slightly at the corners, and are outlined with a raised fillet. The nose is set off from the cheeks and upper lip area by grooves. The area above the upper lip is short. The lips are large bar-shaped forms that curve from the obverse to the front edge. They are separated from each other by a groove. The mentolabial sulcus is a deeper groove. The receding chin is rounded and the under-chin area full. The triangular section of neck is described by two grooves. The area of the ear is indistinct, not only because the surface is much worn but also because there is a natural concavity there. However, a slight swelling at the bottom of the bangs may indicate the ear.

Above the brow is a fringe of bangs, the strands of which are indicated by eight short diagonal incisions. Behind these is a cap set off from the hair by a raised filletlike form, which probably represents the rim of the cap. The cap is a squared conical shape. At the back of the head is a curved chignonlike section of hair extending to the nape of the neck. It is engraved with three lines perpendicular to those in the bangs.

The pendant was hung from a V-shaped suspension system, drilled from two sides through the top of the cap. The front hole is 3.5 mm wide, and the rear hole 4 mm. The pendant would have hung with the chin recessed, the brow forward.


77.AO.81.30 is generally similar in style and dress to (cat. no. 26). It is closer, however, especially in the overall format and in the hairstyle, to two well-preserved pendants from Tomb 164 at Banzi.1 The styling of the hair at the back of the heads is remarkably similar in all three works: it is short and curled under, with the lower edge forming a soft curve. The horizontal waves are rendered by fine engraved lines. However, there are differences in the hair treatment. 77.AO.81.30 has straight bangs, while one of the Banzi head-pendants has horizontal waves at the brow and the other scallops. Both Tomb 164 figures also have a raised fillet at the neck edge, perhaps a necklace, perhaps a mark evoking the form of the decorative protome—as is characteristic of amber horse’s-head pendants. 77.AO.81.30 does not have such a fillet.

Angelo Bottini compared the Banzi amber head-pendants to coin types of Syracuse and Athens of the late sixth and early fifth centuries and dated Tomb 164 “to the first quarter of the fifth century, at the latest.”2 Bottini made a strong case for a local manufacture of the Tomb 164 head-pendants but at the same time argued for a more careful consideration of the territory and its cultural relations with the larger world.

The Banzi Tomb 164 head-pendants and 77.AO.81.30 correspond in general type to Emeline Richardson’s series of Late Archaic bronze korai. A comparison with her Group 5D, especially with the group’s name piece, Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale 5532 (provenance unknown), brings out their common features. They look to be of the same physiognomic type and are dressed in a similar manner.3 As Richardson establishes, Naples 5532 is an old-fashioned work, one that looks back to earlier conceptions of the kore type in Etruria, especially to the Ionian series of the late sixth and early fifth centuries.


  1. Melfi, Museo Archeologico Nazionale del Melfese 51436: , pp. 61–62, no. 17, fig. 4.17a–b. Related is the pendant from Tomb 55 at Banzi: ibid., p. 60, no. 5, fig. 2.5. For discussion of the Banzi heads, see ibid., pp. 59–63, nos. 1–2; , pp. 1–16; and . left open the question of whether the parallel striations at the back of the heads represent coifed short hair or a kekryphalos.
  2. , p. 62.
  3. For the Late Archaic bronze korai, see , pp. 271–332. For Naples 5532, see ibid., pp. 323–25, figs. 770–71. Naples 5532 wears a short necklace and disk earrings. Unlike the amber heads, she wears a low diadem and a veil. See also the discussion of Naples 5532 in the entry for .


Bottini 1987
Bottini, A. “Ambre a protome umana dal Melfese.” 41 (1987): 1–16.
Bottini 1990
Bottini, A. “Le ambre intagliate a figura umana del Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Melfi.” Archeologia: Wrocław Zakład Narodowy im. Ossoli’nskich 41 (1990): 57–66.
Losi et al. 1993
Losi, M., B. Raposso, and G. Ruggiero. “The Production of Amber Female Heads in Pre-Roman Italy.” In Amber in Archaeology: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Amber in Archaeology, Liblice, 1990, edited by C. W. Beck and J. Bouzek, pp. 203–11. Prague, 1993.
Richardson 1983
Richardson, E. H. Etruscan Votive Bronzes: Geometric, Orientalizing, Archaic. 2 vols. Mainz am Rhein, 1983.