134. A Circular Green Chlorite Plaque Carved with a Goddess

Indo-Greek Bactria, 1st–2nd century BC
Size: 18.5 cm diameter

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This sublime representation of bejewelled and confident naked female beauty has nothing artificial about it. It has more to do with Art Shay’s photograph of Simone de Beauvoir naked in her bathroom in Chicago than any Renaissance Venus. It is the expression of universal intimacy. It is noticeable in literature dealing with such a subject that the variations in beauty define whether the female is described as a concubine or a divinity. It should of course be recognized that the flame of divinity burns in every concubine.

It is obvious that this unique carving is closely related to the Indian ivory carvings of the Begram Treasure, dated to the 1st–2nd century AD. The way the figures are outlined and shaped is identical, and their sensuality is quite apart from other figural representations of the time. The Treasure itself illuminates the reach of the Kushan Empire, with lacquerwork from China and glass and bronze from Alexandria and Rome, while its stars are the beautiful women carved into ivory, of which one got away and was immortalized in stone. A further proof of the date when she walked out so gloriously naked, is the triple crown she wears, identical to the gold crown from Tillia Tepe. As always, the parts of societies that understand that the enjoyment of life, of sex, feasting, music and companionship, as both important and spiritual, are torn apart by those who cannot share in such refinements, and dress up their disapproval as the diktats of a disapproving God.