Fresco panel: ‘Tall Standing Woman at the Edge of a Pool’
In situ at Qusayr ‘Amra
Hegira first third of the 2nd century / AD second third of the 8th century
Qusayr ‘Amra, Jordan.
A fresco on the central section of the lower register in the audience hall at Qusayr ‘Amra that depicts a remarkably tall woman standing at the edge of a pool. She is naked except for a loin cloth and is decked with wristlets, armlets, and a necklace with pendants around her neck; another, longer necklace with three pear-shaped pendants hangs between her rounded breasts. Her right arm is lowered, slightly bent towards her right thigh, while the index and little finger of her right hand are extended; the left arm is raised and bent towards her shoulder as if pulling back a curtain behind her. A turban covers her hair with a circular pin at the front.
This female bather puts on a really bold display, evidently much admired by the crowd of figures watching from behind a balustrade in the left arcade. Behind her to the right is a gesturing attendant. In the background is an impressive architectural vista: a two-storey arcade with a curtain and balustrades, which may well represent pool architecture similar to that of the palace forecourt at Khirbet al-Mafjar in Jericho. The central position of the tall, semi-naked woman, her size and her attitude all indicate that she must have been an important personage, perhaps the favourite concubine of the patron of Qusayr ‘Amra.
This bathing beauty brings to mind images of the Goddess of love, Aphrodite, whose image may have served as a source of inscription for this panel.
This fresco is in the audience hall at Qusayr ‘Amra and is inspired by images of Aphrodite. Her central position, size and attitude indicate that she was an important personage, perhaps a favourite concubine of the patron.
Possibly al-Walid II (AH 125–6 / AD 743–4)
Qusayr 'Amra and its frescos date to the Umayyad period, an accurate dating achieved primarily through analysis of some of the paintings in situ, the most important being the fresco panel depicting six rulers; 'The Family of Kings'. Their names, written above their heads in Arabic and Greek, identify them as: 'Caesar', the Byzantine emperor; 'Kisra', the Sasanian emperor; the king of Abbyssinia (Ethiopia); and 'Roderick', the Visigothic king of Spain. Historical inference has established the identities of the other two as the emperor of china and the ruling prince 'khaqan' of the Turks. Since Roderick ruled for only one year before he was killed in AH 92 / AD 711, this date provides a terminus post quem for construction of the monument.
The fresco is in situ at Qusayr ‘Amra.
The panel is located on the western wall of the audience hall at Qusayr ‘Amra.
Almagro, M., et al, Qusayr 'Amra: Residencia y baños omeyas en el desierto de Jordania, Madrid, 1975, p.56; p.102; plates XVIa, XIX a-b; XXa-b.
Fowden, G., Qusayr Amra: Art and the Umayyad Elite in Late Antique Syria, Los Angeles, 2004, pp.227–47.
Ghazi Bisheh "Fresco panel: ‘Tall Standing Woman at the Edge of a Pool’" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2023. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;jo;Mus01_H;47;en
Prepared by: Ghazi BishehGhazi Bisheh
Ghazi Bisheh is an archaeologist and former Director General of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. He studied archaeology at the University of Jordan, and history of Islamic art and architecture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, from where he holds his Ph.D. He was affiliated to the Department of Antiquities of Jordan for most of the period between 1980 and 1999, and was its Director General twice (1988–91 and 1995–9). He was also an associate professor of archaeology at Yarmouk University during the early 1990s. He is the author of numerous publications, including The Umayyads: The Rise of Islamic Art (Brussels: Museum With No Frontiers, 2000), of which he is a co-author. He has carried out excavation work both inside and outside Jordan in sites such as Qasr al-Hallabat, Madaba, Carthage and Bahrain. He is a member of the German Archaeological Institute and is the Deputy Director of the International Council of Museums for the Arab countries.
Copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: JO 88
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Women | The Private Lives of Muslim Women The Umayyads | Court Ceremonials and Pastimes Figurative Art | Human Representation
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