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Ibex Frieze - Works of Art - Ariadne Galleries

Provenance: from Beihan, probably from Hayd ibn ‘Aqil, the necropolis of ancient Timna’.
Antonin Besse (1927-2016) and Christiane Besse (1928-2021), Aden and Paris, acquired in Yemen in 1960, collection number CB38 (recorded for export by the Department of Antiquities, Aden State).
Thence by descent to their children Antonin and Joy-Isabelle Besse. Christie’s, London, December 16th, 1982, no. 109, illus.

The image of the ibex proliferates in the visual vocabulary of ancient South Arabian art and architecture, from sculptural votives in the round and ornamental reliefs on stelai, to their inclusion in the architectural fabric of temples and religious furniture. Something of the playful and benign nature of the animal is captured in the clever manipulation of the depth of relief carving and in the bulging eyes, which impart a sense of vitality. However, their regimented formation alludes to an awareness of august order, emphasising the reverence the South Arabians bestowed on this sacred creature.

Flourishing from the eighth century BC to the fifth century AD and situated along the south-western tip of the ancient Arabian Peninsula, the principal kingdoms of ancient South Arabia were Saba, Ma’in, and Qataban. They were among the most prosperous in antiquity due to their monopoly of two of the most expensive commodities, frankincense and myrrh, which were burnt as incense in temples across the ancient world. Located at the junction between Asia and Africa, this region was a strategic locale for controlling important trade routes not only across Arabia, but also via the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. 



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