Female Head

26. Pendant: Female Head

Accession Number77.AO.81.25
CultureItalic or Etruscan
Date500–480 B.C.
DimensionsHeight: 42 mm; width (across face): 24 mm; depth: 29 mm; Diameter of suspension hole: 3.5 mm; Weight: 14.9 g
SubjectsEtruscan culture; Ionia, Greece (also Ionian, Greek)
View in Collection


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


The pendant was joined from two pieces along a slight oblique plane at the level of the eyes. Chips are missing at the breaks, on the eyes, at the area of the hair on the left side, behind the left ear, at the corner of the left jaw, along the right side of the neck, and in the region of the left eye. There is a large fissure along the left side of the head below the suspension perforation. Another fissure crosses laterally immediately above the perforation. The surface of the piece is crazed overall, and subsurface cracking is visible in transmitted light. There is a pocket of flaky yellowish residue under the left side of the chin. A cloudy inclusion at the center of the piece is visible at the break. In ambient light, the pendant is opaque and dark reddish brown in color; in transmitted light, it is translucent and a lighter red-brown.


The ovoid head-pendant is composed of the head and a portion of the neck of a female figure. The pendant seems to follow the convolutions of the natural lump of amber from which it was worked: the face, neck, and headdress are on the more rounded obverse, while the flatter reverse is smoothed but not figured. A groove on the back and a crater above the ear may be evidence of the removal of inclusions. The suspension perforation is located in the head: it is a lateral bore 3.5 mm in diameter that passes behind the crown on each side of the head. Both exits are abraded on the upper inside edges, no doubt from friction from the carrier. This and the wear on the prominent surfaces are evidence of ancient wear.

Despite the shallow carving and wear to the object, its features are still legible. The face is full and rounded. The eyes are large and almond-shaped, with thick and cordlike eyebrows. The outside corners of the eyes are upturned slightly, the left more than the right. The brow ridges rise slightly above the eyes. There is only a slight indentation for the root of the nose, which is now flat. Grooves running from the inner canthi of the eyes to the corner of the lips on each side incorporate the sides of the nose and the nasolabial furrows. The lips are almost straight, semicylindrical bars. The mouth angle furrows are indicated by shallow grooves, the mentolabial sulcus by an indentation. The chin is full and the jawline rounded. The figure has large ears and wears round earrings. The neck is cylindrical, with a distinct fullness.

Above the smooth brow are bangs that divide in the middle of the forehead and are brushed diagonally to each side; the strands of hair are individuated by diagonal grooves. The figure wears a conical hat, a veil, and a crown. The veil covers only the hair, cap, and ears. The veil has straight pleated folds indicated by modeling on the back of the head. The tiaralike crown is decorated with a grooved border at all of the edges. The lower edge of the crown is set off from the bangs by an engraved line. The crown’s upper edge stands above the head. The sides of the crown stop just above and in front of the ears.


There is a parallel for this head-pendant in Munich, one also modeled fully in the round.1 The Munich amber is drilled with a lateral suspension hole in the top of the head in the same position as that of 77.AO.81.25. In addition, the Munich head has a metal loop (date uncertain) inserted in the top of the head. The two figures differ in dress: although the Munich head has bangs, a cap, and a veil, it does not have a crown or earrings.

Variants of this head-pendant’s elements of adornment—hat, crown, earrings, veil, and styled hair—are characteristic of many other head-pendants worn by Etruscan Archaic bronze korai, the earliest of which are in Emeline Richardson’s Middle Archaic series.2 The best Etruscan bronze parallels for the amber are found in Richardson’s groupings of Late Archaic korai, especially Late Archaic Series A, Ionians,3 and a related group of bronzes, Group 5D, Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale 5532.4 Two bronzes from Series A, one in Vienna (Kunsthistorisches Museum 71) and one in Copenhagen (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek H224), are a set of important comparanda for 77.AO.81.25.5 The Getty amber head-pendant and the two Series A bronzes are all recognizably Ionian in style, as the name given to the bronzes by Richardson underlines. Richardson placed Vienna 71 and Copenhagen H224 into different subgroups of Series A: Vienna 71 in her Group 2, Tomba del Barone, and Copenhagen H224 in her Group 6, Late Korai. The physiognomy of 77.AO.81.25 is most like that of Copenhagen H224 (which is bareheaded), but the dress is more like that of Vienna 71—which, too, is capped, crowned, earringed, and veiled.

A comparison to Naples 5532 brings out additional Ionian and Etruscan aspects of 77.AO.81.25. This bronze kore represents a physical type very much like 77.AO.81.25; they both have the same “big head and long face.”6 The votive also provides a model for how 77.AO.81.25 would look if the amber were a complete figure. Richardson describes the draping of Naples 5532’s veil as “pulled over the cap so that two ends fall on the shoulders [with] the rest [hanging] in a long panel down the back.”7 This is the same South Ionian fashion of veil worn by the Getty amber Kore, (cat. no. 8).


  1. Munich, Antikensammlungen 15.003.
  2. , pp. 258–70.
  3. Ibid., pp. 275–76.
  4. Ibid., p. 323.
  5. For Vienna 71, see ibid., pp. 284–85, fig. 663; for Copenhagen H224 (perhaps made at Capua), ibid., pp. 295–96.
  6. Ibid., p. 323. See also the entry for (cat. no. 25) for a discussion of Richardson’s Group 5D and its relevance for the amber head-pendants.
  7. , p. 323.


Richardson 1983
Richardson, E. H. Etruscan Votive Bronzes: Geometric, Orientalizing, Archaic. 2 vols. Mainz am Rhein, 1983.