Ancient Greece, Tanagra, Hellenistic Period, ca. 3rd century BCE. A hollow, mold-formed terracotta depiction of an elegant female figure, perhaps a goddess, standing atop an integral tiered plinth of a semicircular form. She presents with a slightly bent right leg, wears an ankle-length himation with a flowing cloak held open by her right arm, and grasps a rectangular pyxis with an open lid in her left hand. Recessed almond eyes, thin brows, a delicate nose, puffy lips, and smooth cheeks define her feminine visage between plaited bangs and a striated coiffure tapering upwards to a wavy column of hair. Adding to her timeless beauty are the layers of applied white pigment across most of her body, blue pigment around the top of her garment as well as near her ankles, and red pigment around her lips and coiffure. Size: 4.8" W x 11.125" H (12.2 cm x 28.3 cm).
Inspired by historical knowledge like that collected at the Library of Alexandria, prominent Hellenistic art collectors commissioned large pieces based on public statues from the earlier Classical Period. More available art forms like this one echoed the naturalistic, detailed classical style that reached a pinnacle in small statuary during the Hellenistic period. Artisans looked for inspiration not only from the past but also from what they observed around them - usually women. Terracotta figures like this example have been uncovered in private dwellings where they may have had a religious purpose or been part of a shrine. Other figures decorate tombs and sanctuaries - in Tanagra, the site that this style of figural artwork is named for, some of the over 10,000 discovered graves have up to a dozen of these statuettes. Perhaps they represented mourners, dressed in finery to attend a funeral.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection, acquired from a French auction house or dealer; ex-private Mazard collection, France, acquired in the 1970s
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Figure repaired from multiple large pieces, with some areas of restoration around the base, and resurfacing as well as overpainting along break lines. Large portion of verso removed to insert metal stabilization rod during repairs. Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age, chips and nicks to body, base, and head, with fading to pigmentation in some areas, and light encrustations. Nice earthen deposits and traces of pigmentation throughout.