Ivory—mainly in the guise of elephant tusks—was a precious and exotic material much in demand among collectors of small sculpture. Objects carved out of ivory ranged from crucifixes to statuettes of mythological figures, like this Omphale Seated by the Flemish sculptor Artus Quellinus. Large pieces of ivory were hard to find and sculptors made the most of their material: the slight curvature of the elephant tusk has been ingeniously incorporated into the design of Quellinus's voluptuous and graceful figure. Using tools similar to those employed for carving wood, the sculptor masterfully created different textures for Omphale's soft flesh, her flowing drapery, the marble column, and the rough wooden club. As punishment for a murder committed in a fit of madness, Hercules was condemned to be the slave of Omphale, queen of Lydia (modern-day Turkey). She appropriated Hercules's attributes—the club and lion's pelt. In Omphale Seated Quellinus beautifully intermingles the lion's mane with Omphale's long locks.

Turn the Sculpture Yourself
Artus Quellinus
Flemish, 1609–1668
Omphale Seated
mid-seventeenth century