The Fertile Goddess


The oldest sculpture in the Brooklyn Museum represents a woman; it was made by people living in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) or Syria in the late fifth millennium B.C.E. She and other ancient female figurines with exaggerated or highly stylized female forms are small in scale but great in their ineffable power to capture the imagination of those who confront them.

Art Exhibition previously on at Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, United States.
From Friday 19 December 2008 to Sunday 31 May 2009

Ceramic Goddess #3 (Study for Goddess Figurine on Fertile Goddess runner), 1977 image

Published by Brooklyn Museum on Friday 09 January 2009.
Contact the publisher.

Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Herstory Gallery, 4th Floor
Who is she? A goddess, a ritual object, a votive offering, a vehicle for working magic or fulfilling wishes, a talisman for protection, a teaching or initiation device, or simply an ancient woman’s embodiment of herself?

Nine such ancient figurines from the Museum’s collection are the focus of this third Herstory Gallery exhibition, which explores them as a source of inspiration for Judy Chicago’s depiction of The Fertile Goddess at The Dinner Party. The tenth figurine, on loan from Judy Chicago, is the Ceramic Goddess #3 (1977), a larger version of the female figurine on the place setting runner for The Fertile Goddess at The Dinner Party. This contemporary embodiment also evokes the rare and earliest known female forms of the Paleolithic period, like the iconic Venus of Willendorf, made about 25,000 years ago. Important to Chicago was the feminist re-examination of ancient female figurines from the 1960s on, interpreting them as manifestations of goddess-worshipping societies, which was at the fore of feminist thought at the time.

Feminism and gender theory have influenced archaeology considerably since Chicago created The Dinner Par