Greek Terracotta Figurines

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Hermes criophorus (?), Boeotian terracotta figurine, ca. 450 BC, Louvre


Terracotta figurines are a mode of artistic and religious expression frequently found in Ancient Greece. Cheap and easily produced, these figurines abound and provide an invaluable testimony to the everyday life and religion of the Ancient Greeks.

Techniques of Manufacture

Modelling

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Woman with raised arms, typical funerary offering, Cyprus, 7th century BC, Louvre


Modelling is the most common and simplest technique. It is also used for the realization of bronzes: the prototypes are made out of raw clay. The small sizes are directly worked with the hand. For the larger models, the coroplath (or κοροπλάθος/ koropláthos, manufacturer of figurines) presses the clay pellets or wads against a wooden restraint.

Moulding

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Plaster key mold for the reverse side of a figurine of Demeter-Isis, Louvre


The mould is obtained by application of a bed of clay or plaster on the prototype. Simple moulds, used by the Greeks of the continent until 4th century BC, are simply dried. Bivalvular moulds, borrowed by the insular Greeks from Egyptians, require cutting to obtain an obverse and a reverse, with which “keys” are sometimes associated—protuberances allowing the two parts to fit better. When the piece becomes complicated, with important projections (arm, legs, head, clothing), the craftsman can cut out the mould in smaller parts. The piece is then dried.

The second phase consists in applying a layer of raw clay inside the mould, which can be beforehand incised in order to obtain effects of relief. The thinness of the layer varies according to the type of object to be realized. The faces of the mould are joined together, the object is then unmoulded and the craftsman can proceed to the final improvements, typically smoothing the junction. The craftsman also creates a small opening, a vent hole that allows steam to escape during the firing. The vent can also be used for assembly, allowing intervention inside the piece. The limbs are then joined to the body either by pasting them with barbotine (clay mixed with water), or by mortice and tenon joint.

Firing and completion

The piece is then fired in the kiln, temperature ranging from 600 to 800 °C. The kiln used is the same as the potters'. Once the figurine is fired, slip can be applied. The slip is sometimes itself fired at low temperature. In the beginning, the range of colors available is rather reduced: red, yellow, black and blue. From the Hellenistic era on, orange, pink mauve, and green are added to that repertoire. The pigments are natural mineral dyes: ochre for yellow and red, coal for black, malachite for green, etc.

Religious Functions

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Woman bearing offerings, archaic figurine from Peloponnese, Louvre


Thanks to their low cost, the figurines make perfect religious offerings. That is indeed their primary purpose, the decorative aspect coming only later. This explains why the Greek temples host abundant quantities of votive or funerary figurines, and why there is almost no document written on their subject. These figurines can present identification issues. Admittedly, the attributes make it possible to recognize such or such god in an unquestionable way, such as the bow for Artemis. Moreover, certain types of statuettes correspond to a precise form of worship related to a specific divinity. Sometimes however, “visiting gods” complicate matters: these are figurines dedicated to a god who is not of that sanctuary. In addition, the great majority of the figurines represent simply a woman upright, without attribute. These latter figurines are offered in all sanctuaries, independently of the divinity.

The gift of figurines accompanies every moment of life. During pregnancy, future mothers will have had care to offer a figurine to Ilithyia, goddess of childbirth: the statuette represents a woman squatting, in full work, according to the Eastern practice. Certain statuettes include a small cavity intended to receive smaller figurines, representative of their babies. At the time of the early childhood, one gives figurines of squatting children—a representation of Eastern origin, arrived in Greece via Rhodes and Cyprus. The so-called “temple boys” seem to protect the children. Similar representations are also found in tombs. These figurines are of variable size, perhaps to indicate the age of the dead child. Indeed, the habit is to bury the dead accompanied by objects of daily custom: jewels, combs, figurines for the women; weapons and strigils for the men; figurines and toys for the children. Figurines are often voluntarily broken before being placed in the tomb.

The terra cotta figurines are often purchased at the entry of the sanctuary. They are the offerings of the common people, who cannot afford to dedicate more valuable objects. They are also used to replace offerings in kind, like animals or food. One places them on the benches of the temples or close to the cult statue. One can also deposit them in places of worship outdoors: Socrates recognizes a sacred spring on seeing figurines on the ground (Phaedrus 230B). One dedicates figurines to ask favours from a god as well as to thank him. When the figurines are too numerous in a temple, they are thrown in a “sacred dump”. In that case, they are frequently broken to avoid recovery.

Ludic and decorative functions

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Grotesque: 350–300 BCE, musée du Louvre


From the 4th century BC, the figurines acquire a decorative function. Thus figurines represent theatrical characters, such as Julius Pollux recounts in his Onomasticon (2nd century CE): the slave, the peasant, the nurse, the fat woman, the satyr from the satyr play, etc. The features are readily caricatured and distorted. By the Hellenistic era, the figurines become grotesques: deformed beings with disproportionate heads, sagging breasts or prominent bellies, hunchbacks and bald men. Grotesques are a speciality of the city of Smyrna, even if produced everywhere in the Greek world, for instance in Tarsus or Alexandria.

Lastly, the terracotta is often used to manufacture dolls and other child's toys. Thus we find articulated figurines or small horses, easy to manipulate for small hands. Sometimes, the nature of a figurine is difficult to determine, such as the curious bell-idols from Boeotia, which appear at the end of the 8th century BC. They are equipped with a long neck and a disproportionate body, cylindrical and lathe-shaped. The arms are atrophied and the legs are mobile. Lastly, the head is pierced with a hole to hang them. It is uncertain if they were toys or votive offerings.

References

*This article is a somewhat modified translation of the original French article , all credit goes to the authors of that.
  • French S. Besque, Figurines et reliefs grecs en terre cuite, ed. Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 1994 (ISBN 2-7118-2793-3) (ISBN 2-7118-2793-3)
  • French V. Jeammet :
  • La Vie quotidienne en Grèce : des terres cuites pour la vie et l'au-delà, ed. Réunion des musées nationaux & Musée du Louvre, coll. « Chercheurs d'art », 2001,
  • Feuillets du Louvre, Louvre et Réunion des Musées nationaux, vol. V, n° 332–334, 2000 ;
  • R. Higgins, Greek Terracottas, Methuen, coll. « Methuen's handbooks of archaeology », New York, 1967 ;
  • French B. Holtzmann et A. Pasquier, L'Art grec, La Documentation française, coll. « Manuels de l'École du Louvre », 1998 ;
  • French R. V. Nicholls, « La Fabrication des terres cuites », Histoire et archéologie, 81 (1984), p. 24–31 ;
  • W. Stevenson, The Pathological grotesque Representations in Greek and Roman Art, Ann Arbor, 1975.

See also

The term ancient Greece refers to the periods of Greek history in Classical Antiquity, lasting ca. 750 BC[1] (the archaic period) to 146 BC (the Roman conquest). It is generally considered to be the seminal culture which provided the foundation of Western Civilization.
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Clay is a naturally occurring material, composed primarily of fine-grained minerals, which show plasticity through a variable range of water content, and which can be hardened when dried or fired.
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The 4th century BC started the first day of 400 BC and ended the last day of 301 BC. It is considered part of the Classical era, epoch, or historical period.

Overview

This century marks the height of Classical Greek civilization in all of its aspects.
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Slip in a ceramic context is made by mixing clays and other minerals with water and usually a deflocculant such as sodium silicate. The addition of a defloculant allows the water content to be kept to a minimum which reduces the amount of shrinkage when slipcasting.
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The term Hellenistic (derived from Ἕλλην Héllēn, the Greeks' traditional self-described ethnic name) was established by the German historian Johann Gustav Droysen to refer to the spreading of
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Ochre or Ocher (pronounced /'əʊ.kə(r)/, from the Greek ὠχρός, yellow) is a color, usually described as golden-yellow or light yellow brown.
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Coal (IPA: /ˈkəʊl/) is a fossil fuel formed in swamp ecosystems where plant remains were saved by water and mud from oxidization and biodegradation.
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Malachite is a carbonate mineral, copper(II) carbonate hydroxide Cu2CO3(OH)2. It crystallizes in the monoclinic crystal system, and most often forms botryoidal, fibrous, or stalagmitic masses.
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Ilithyia —the Latin spelling—or more usually Eileithyia[1] (Greek: Εἰλείθυια), was the Cretan goddess whom Greek mythology adapted as the goddess of childbirth and midwiving.
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Rhodes
Ρόδο?

Palace of the Grand Master in the city of Rhodes
Geography

Island Chain: Dodecanese
Area:[1] 1,400.684 km (0 sq.mi.
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Motto
none
Anthem
Ύμνος εις την Ελευθερίαν
Imnos is tin Eleftherian

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strigil was a small, curved, metal tool used in ancient Greece and Rome to scrape dirt and sweat from the body, (in the age before effective soaps). First perfumed oil was applied to the skin, and then it would be scraped off, along with the dirt.
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The Phaedrus (Greek Φαίδρος), written by Plato, is a dialogue between Plato's main protagonist, Socrates, and Phaedrus, an interlocutor in several dialogues.
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The 4th century BC started the first day of 400 BC and ended the last day of 301 BC. It is considered part of the Classical era, epoch, or historical period.

Overview

This century marks the height of Classical Greek civilization in all of its aspects.
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Julius Pollux (Ιούλιος Πολυδεύκης, Ioulios Poludeukes) (2nd century AD) was a Greek[1] or Egyptian[2]
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Satyr plays were an ancient Greek form of tragicomedy, similar to the modern-day burlesque style. They always featured a chorus of satyrs and were based in Greek mythology and contained themes of, among other things, drinking, overt sexuality (often including large phallic props),
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Smyrna(Σμύρνη)
Ancient City of Greece
(Izmir)

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Tarsus (Greek Ταρσός) is a city and a large district in Mersin Province, Turkey, 15 km from the city of Mersin and near (40 km) to the city of Adana.
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The 8th century BC started the first day of 800 BC and ended the last day of 701 BC.

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French (français, pronounced [fʁɑ̃ˈsɛ]) is a Romance language originally spoken in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, and today by about 300 million people around the world as either
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French (français, pronounced [fʁɑ̃ˈsɛ]) is a Romance language originally spoken in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, and today by about 300 million people around the world as either
..... Click the link for more information.
French (français, pronounced [fʁɑ̃ˈsɛ]) is a Romance language originally spoken in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, and today by about 300 million people around the world as either
..... Click the link for more information.
French (français, pronounced [fʁɑ̃ˈsɛ]) is a Romance language originally spoken in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, and today by about 300 million people around the world as either
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