Ancient Greece, Archaic, ca. 650 to 480 BCE. A mold-made terracotta protome depicting a female head, wearing a himation drawn up and over her head and round earrings, with a scalloped fringe of bangs and long locks elegantly framing her face and ears, a lovely visage presenting open, almond-shaped, lidded eyes, a relatively naturalistic nose, nicely contoured cheeks, a rounded chin, and that signature Archaic smile. Although the exact significance of this smile is unknown, scholars suggest that the ancient Greeks associated it with good health and well being. A wonderful example from this early period. Perforation at top center. Frosted lucite stand. Size: 3.875" W x 5.5" H (9.8 cm x 14 cm)
By the seventh century BCE, Greek art began to evolve from its embrace of geometric patterning, which was favored between approximately 1050 and 700 BCE, to a desire to create more naturalistic representations of the human figure. Most famous are the freestanding sculptures of two main types, the male standing youth known as a kouros, and the draped standing female kore. The earliest examples demonstrate an Egyptian influence in both pose and proportions, but over time sculptors created even more lifelike representations. These were placed in sanctuaries as well as cemetaries and served as grave markers and dedications to the deities. Protomes like this example demonstrate these developing naturalistic leanings of Greek visual culture as well, with that Archaic smile signifying life and representing the Archaic ideal. They would have been dedicated in an ancient temple to the local deity, perhaps to thank the god or goddess, or to assist in making a request.
Provenance: private Swiss collection
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