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Greece, Tanagra, Boeotia, Archaic Period, ca. 6th century BCE. A terracotta figure of what is probably a female worshipper. She has a simplified body composed of a cylinder that flares outward at her feet, allowing her to stand on her own. Projecting from the upper body are two outstretched, tapering, arm-like forms. The head has a large face with clear, naturalistic details that are in strong contrast to the simple form of the body. Atop the head is a polos crown with an attached frontispiece that curls up over the top of the head. Red paint on the buff fired clay surface forms wavy lines that travel vertically down the body and horizontally around the frontispiece. The polos crown may signify a goddess, but in this case it probably signifies a woman of high social standing - idols are often representative of worshippers rather than gods, and at this time in history wealthy women are shown wearing the polos. The outstretched arms are another common feature of ancient idols, thought to signify an act of supplication, as are the large eyes, thought to indicate watchfulness to the gods. Size: 2.6" W x 6.6" H (6.6 cm x 16.8 cm)
This idol represents an early form of Greek sculpture, inspired by Corinth, where the body has been fashioned free hand, while the face is shaped with a mold. These were the precursors to the increasingly lifelike, naturalistic sculptures that Tanagra would be known for later in Greek history. They demonstrate a fundamental change in thinking about the human form in art.
Provenance: private Swiss collection
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