Steel and gold leaf
110 x 70 x 40 cm
The Semitic divinity Ishtar was a syncretism of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, the first figure of the Mesopotamian pantheon, venerated for 3,500 years before our era. With complex and even contradictory characteristics, she has been described as the "incarnation of Antiquity", constantly crossing the barrier between the feminine and the masculine, between the virgin and the prostitute, between the human being and the animal. Some of her titles were "Queen of Heaven" or "Morning and Evening Star", an epithet that betrays her link with Venus, and therefore, with Aphrodite.
One of her distinctive characteristics was an unstable and exalted character, capable of going from irresistible and loving seduction to relentless violence. Unlike other female deities, Inanna-Ishtar was never the wife of any god, instead she remained independent, despite her ties, according to some sources, to the sky god An or to Dumuzi, the Biblical Tammuz.
The most famous legend of Inanna/Ishtar is her descent into the Kur, the Mesopotamian land of no return, to conquer the kingdom of her older sister Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld. The poet and priestess Eheduanna, who lived during the s. XXIII and has been attributed the first authorship in history, wrote numerous hymns to Inanna, identifying her with Ishtar in her three facets: warrior, lover and astral.
Inanna/Ishtar has become an important figure in contemporary feminist theory, because she illuminates a male-dominated Mesopotamian pantheon. Simone de Behaviour, in her book The Second Sex (1949), argued that Inanna/Ishtar, along with other powerful ancient goddesses, were marginalized by modern culture in favor of male deities. Likewise, for Tikva Frymer-Kensky, she embodied the "socially unacceptable" archetype of an "undomesticated and untethered" woman.
The diverse profiles of Inanna / Ishtar and the syncretization and harmonization of apparently contradictory characteristics make her figure one of the most fascinating, not only in the Sumero-Babylonian pantheon, but in the history of religions in general. In short, an expansive figure that yearns for its fullness and that, from its first cult around the fourth millennium BCE, will re-emerge in the s. XX, almost six thousand years later.
Mighty, majestic and radiant,
You shine brightly in the evening.
You brighten the day at dawn.
Fragment of Holy Priestess of Heaven. Translated by Wolkstein & Kramer (1983)