Lady of Elche

Late 5th / early 4th century BC

Museo Arqueológico Nacional

Museo Arqueológico Nacional
Madrid, Spain

Discovered by chance on 4 August 1897 at the site of La Alcudia in Elche was quickly sold to the Louvre Museum. It was returned in 1941 and finally installed in the National Archaeological Museum in 1971. This bust carved in the round depicts a richly dressed young woman with oversized jewellery on her head and three necklaces on her chest from which amulet holders and small amphorae hang. A small annular fibula closes one of the robes. Amongst the idealised features of the face, are the prominent eye hollows, which would have been filled with vitreous paste. It originally had polychrome applied directly on the stone. Isolated specks of red, ochre, Egyptian blue and yellow have been found on the jewellery as well as traces of gold leaf on the inside of the neck. The absence of archaeological context makes it a difficult piece to interpret. Various hypotheses have been suggested alluding to its original form (standing, seated, a bust) and interpreting the cavity at the back (a deposit for offerings, a cinerary urn). It is believed to depict a lady of the Iberian aristocracy who was deified by her descendants.


  • Title: Lady of Elche
  • Date Created: Late 5th / early 4th century BC
  • Provenance: La Alcudia (Elche, Alicante, Spain)
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: Museo Arqueológico Nacional
  • External Link: CERES
  • Medium: Limestone
  • Cultural Context: Iberian

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