Tanagra figurine

The Tanagra figurines were a mold-cast type of Greek terracotta figurines produced from the later fourth century BC, primarily in the Boeotian town of Tanagra, which has given its name to the whole class. They were coated with a liquid white slip before firing and were sometimes painted afterwards in naturalistic tints with watercolors, such as the famous "Dame en Bleu" ("Lady in Blue") at the Louvre. They were widely exported around the ancient Greek world. Such figures were made in many other Mediterranean sites, including Alexandria, Tarentum in Magna Graecia, Centuripe in Sicily and Myrina in Mysia.

Though not portraits, Tanagra figures depict real women — and some men and boys — in everyday costume, with familiar accessories like hats, wreaths or fans. Some character pieces[1] may have represented stock figures from the New Comedy of Menander and other writers. Others continued an earlier tradition of molded terracotta figures used as cult images or votive objects. Typically they are about 10 to 20 centimetres high.

Altes Museum - Tanagra Figurine3
Tanagra figurine representing woman sitting

Some Tanagra figurines were religious in purpose, but most seem to have been entirely decorative, much like their modern equivalents from the 18th century onwards. Given Greek burial customs, they were placed as grave goods in the tombs of their owners, very likely without any sense that they would serve the deceased in the afterlife, in the way that is common in the funerary art of ancient Egypt or China. They do not seem to have been specially made for burial. Some character pieces[2] may have represented stock figures from the New Comedy of Menander and other writers. Others continued an earlier tradition of molded terracotta figures used as cult images or votive objects.

The coraplasters, or sculptors of the models that provided the molds, delighted in revealing the body under the folds of a himation thrown round the shoulders like a cloak and covering the head, over a chiton, and the movements of such drapery in action.

Lady in blue Louvre MNB907
"Lady in blue", molded and gilded terracotta figurine, Louvre, Paris

Discovery and excavation

Tanagra was an unimportant city in antiquity. The city had come to the attention of historians and archeologists during the early 19th century after war broke out between the Turks and their allies, the British and the French, following a warning of a French invasion. Tanagra figures had not been much noted before the end of the 1860s, when ploughmen of Vratsi in Boeotia, Greece, began to uncover tombs ranging in date over many centuries. The main finds especially from the 4th and 3rd centuries BC were secured in 1874. Inside and outside the tombs of the Hellenistic period — 3rd to 1st centuries BC — were many small terracotta figures. Great quantities found in excavation sites at Tanagra identified the city as the source of these figures, which were also exported to distant markets.

The figures appealed to 19th century middle-class ideals of realism, and "Tanagra figures" entered the visual repertory of Europeans. Jean-Léon Gérôme created a polychromatic sculpture depicting the spirit of Tanagra, and one French critic described the fashionable women portrayed in the statuettes as "the parisienne of the ancient world". Oscar Wilde, in his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), has Dorian liken his love, Sybil, to "the delicate grace of the Tanagra figurine that you have in your Studio, Basil." [1] Later, in his play An Ideal Husband (1895), Wilde introduces the character of Mabel Chiltern upon her entrance by stating (amongst further description), "she is really like a Tanagra statuette, and would be rather annoyed if she were told so." [2]

Under the pressure of collectors' demands in the late 19th century, Tanagra terracottas began to be faked.[3]



The figures were posed in various ways to correspond to the life of the deceased.[4] The figurines that were buried in the graves led to a theory that the small figures represented the person's possessions.[4] They were believed by historians to bring comfort to the dead, sending them to the next world in peace as they took something from their old lives with them. It is speculated that though it was usual to place the figurines in the graves, it was not essential, as a vase would have been.[4][5]

Subject matter

Young boy BM C274
(Tanagra figurine) A young man seated on a rock. Back roughly modelled; square vent. Red on hair and boots; orange-pink on rock; pink on skin; rose-madder with blue border on cloak. British Museum 1874

These figurines represented moments in everyday life, such as a woman taking care of her children, or a child playing, as well as men and young children sitting and women playing games with other women or by themselves.[6]

  • Seated women and girls
  • Women leaning against a column
  • Crouching woman
  • Pickaback
  • Men and young men
  • Eros
  • Aphrodite
  • Grotesques
Greek - Tanagra Figurine - Walters 23281
This terracotta figurine of a woman demonstrates some thematic elements that are common to these statuettes. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.
Molded terracotta nude of a goddess, Alexandrian (Greco-Roman Museum, Alexandria)

Campains of excavation

Initial excavations

In 1806, Col. W.M. Leake visited the city of Tanagra and described the ruins that he had seen in detail in Travels in Northern Greece.[7][4] Cambridge scholar Christopher Wordsworth visited the city in 1832,[4] and in 1837, H.M. Ulrichs, a German scholar, visited the site.[4] During 1852 the French General Staff published the initial map that revealed the location of the first six graves found in the ruins.[4]

Grave robberies

In 1870 an outbreak of grave robberies had occurred in the ruins of the city of Tanagra.[8][4] This resulted in many of the tombs being ruined due to the robbers' carelessness in excavating the graves in order to steal the Tanagra figurines. Many of the graves had vases placed on them, but the majority of them ended up broken. During 1873, a number of illegal permits had been confiscated from people in nearby villages which would have allowed them to excavate the graves.[4] This led the Archeological Society of Athens to protect the site and begin excavation before anything else could be stolen or destroyed.[8][4]

Excavation of 1874-1879

The Archeological Society of Athens sent Panayotis Stamatakis, a senior official, to excavate the graves that had been left intact. Before he began, he confiscated antiquities from people in nearby villages. The grave robberies had led historians to excavate the city to learn more of its culture and history, and also to discover why the figurines were mainly found in graves, and what they might have represented for the deceased. The excavations would be on and off because of the possibility of damaging any art that might be left in the intact sites. Most of the Tanagra figurines were discovered to be buried with the dead. From the excavations a large number of figurines had been found among the ruins, but no details of the exact number of figurines were released.[4] Many were missing or had been given away.[4] While Stamatakis and the others sent from the Archeological Society of Athens would dig during the day, the people living near the ruins would dig during the night due to the lack of guards.[4]


  • Besques-Mollard, Simone, 1950. Tanagra (Paris: Braun)
  • Tanagra - Myth and Archaeology Exhibition, Paris, 2003; Montreal, 2004.
  • Thompson, Dorothy (1966) " The origin of Tanagras". American Journal of Archaeology.70 (1): 51-63
  • Bell, Malcolm III (2014) Morgatina Studies: The Terracotas. Princeton University Press.
  • Dillon, Sheila (2010). The Female Portrait Statue in the Greek World. Cambridge University Press.
  • Higgins Reynolds (1985). Tanagra and the Figurines. Princeton University Press.


  1. ^ The head and torso of an actor in comedy wearing a grotesquely grinning satyr's mask is at the Musée du Louvre.
  2. ^ The head and torso of an actor in comedy wearing a grotesquely grinning satyr's mask is at the Musée du Louvre.
  3. ^ Zink and Porto 2005 report that 20 percent of the Tanagra terracottas in the British Museum have been identified as fakes.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Higgins, Reynold Alleyne (1986). Tanagra and the Figurines. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691040448.
  5. ^ Bell, Malcolm (2014). The Terracottas. Morgantina Studies. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691614755.
  6. ^ Dillon, Sheila (2010). The Female Portrait Statue in the Greek World. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521764506.
  7. ^ Leake, William Martin (1835). Travels in Northern Greece. 2. pp. 454–461. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  8. ^ a b Thompson, Dorothy (1966). "The Origin of Tanagras". American Journal of Archaeology. 70 (1): 51–63.

External links

Further reading

  • Minna Lönnqvist (1997) "Nulla signa sine argilla" - Hellenistic Athens and the Message of the Tanagra Style, in Early Hellenistic Athens, Symptoms of a Change, ed. by Jaakko Frösén, Papers and Monographs of the Finnish Institute at Athens, Vol. VI, Vammala, 147-182+ 14 illustrations + sources.
Ancient Greek art

Ancient Greek art stands out among that of other ancient cultures for its development of naturalistic but idealized depictions of the human body, in which largely nude male figures were generally the focus of innovation. The rate of stylistic development between about 750 and 300 BC was remarkable by ancient standards, and in surviving works is best seen in sculpture. There were important innovations in painting, which have to be essentially reconstructed due to the lack of original survivals of quality, other than the distinct field of painted pottery.

Greek architecture, technically very simple, established a harmonious style with numerous detailed conventions that were largely adopted by Roman architecture and are still followed in some modern buildings. It used a vocabulary of ornament that was shared with pottery, metalwork and other media, and had an enormous influence on Eurasian art, especially after Buddhism carried it beyond the expanded Greek world created by Alexander the Great. The social context of Greek art included radical political developments and a great increase in prosperity; the equally impressive Greek achievements in philosophy, literature and other fields are well known.

The earliest art by Greeks is generally excluded from "ancient Greek art", and instead known as Greek Neolithic art followed by Aegean art; the latter includes Cycladic art and the art of the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures from the Greek Bronze Age. The art of ancient Greece is usually divided stylistically into four periods: the Geometric, Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic. The Geometric age is usually dated from about 1000 BC, although in reality little is known about art in Greece during the preceding 200 years, traditionally known as the Greek Dark Ages. The 7th century BC witnessed the slow development of the Archaic style as exemplified by the black-figure style of vase painting. Around 500 BC, shortly before the onset of the Persian Wars (480 BC to 448 BC), is usually taken as the dividing line between the Archaic and the Classical periods, and the reign of Alexander the Great (336 BC to 323 BC) is taken as separating the Classical from the Hellenistic periods. From some point in the 1st century BC onwards "Greco-Roman" is used, or more local terms for the Eastern Greek world.In reality, there was no sharp transition from one period to another. Forms of art developed at different speeds in different parts of the Greek world, and as in any age some artists worked in more innovative styles than others. Strong local traditions, and the requirements of local cults, enable historians to locate the origins even of works of art found far from their place of origin. Greek art of various kinds was widely exported. The whole period saw a generally steady increase in prosperity and trading links within the Greek world and with neighbouring cultures.

The survival rate of Greek art differs starkly between media. We have huge quantities of pottery and coins, much stone sculpture, though even more Roman copies, and a few large bronze sculptures. Almost entirely missing are painting, fine metal vessels, and anything in perishable materials including wood. The stone shell of a number of temples and theatres has survived, but little of their extensive decoration.

Art of ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian art refers to paintings, sculptures, architecture, and other arts produced by the civilization of ancient Egypt in the lower Nile Valley between the periods around the 31st century BC to the 4th century AD. Ancient Egyptian art reached a high level in painting and sculpture and was both highly stylized and symbolic. It was famously conservative, and Egyptian styles changed remarkably little over the three thousand-year period. Much of the surviving art comes from tombs and monuments, which have given greater insight on the Egyptians belief of the afterlife and has caused a greater focus on preserving knowledge of the past. Wall art was not produced to be seen, rather had a purpose in the afterlife.

Ancient Egyptian art included paintings, sculptures in wood (now rarely surviving), stone and ceramics, drawings on papyrus, faience, jewelry, ivories, and other art media. It displays an extraordinarily vivid representation of the ancient Egyptian's socioeconomic status and belief systems.

The Ancient Egyptian language had no word for "art," rather, art served an essentially functional purpose that was intimately bound up with religion and ideology. To render a subject in art was to give it permanence. Hence, ancient Egyptian art portrayed an idealized, non realistic, view of the world. There was no tradition of individual artistic expression since art served a wider and cosmic purpose of maintaining created order.

Ceramic art

Ceramic art is art made from ceramic materials, including clay. It may take forms including artistic pottery, including tableware, tiles, figurines and other sculpture. Ceramic art is one of the arts, particularly the visual arts. Of these, it is one of the plastic arts. While some ceramics are considered fine art, as pottery or sculpture, some are considered to be decorative, industrial or applied art objects. Ceramics may also be considered artefacts in archaeology. Ceramic art can be made by one person or by a group of people. In a pottery or ceramic factory, a group of people design, manufacture and decorate the art ware. Products from a pottery are sometimes referred to as "art pottery". In a one-person pottery studio, ceramists or potters produce studio pottery.

The word "ceramics" comes from the Greek keramikos (κεραμικος), meaning "pottery", which in turn comes from keramos (κεραμος) meaning "potter's clay". Most traditional ceramic products were made from clay (or clay mixed with other materials), shaped and subjected to heat, and tableware and decorative ceramics are generally still made this way. In modern ceramic engineering usage, ceramics is the art and science of making objects from inorganic, non-metallic materials by the action of heat. It excludes glass and mosaic made from glass tesserae.

There is a long history of ceramic art in almost all developed cultures, and often ceramic objects are all the artistic evidence left from vanished cultures, like that of the Nok in Africa over 2,000 years ago. Cultures especially noted for ceramics include the Chinese, Cretan, Greek, Persian, Mayan, Japanese, and Korean cultures, as well as the modern Western cultures.

Elements of ceramic art, upon which different degrees of emphasis have been placed at different times, are the shape of the object, its decoration by painting, carving and other methods, and the glazing found on most ceramics.

Hellenistic art

Hellenistic art is the art of the Hellenistic period generally taken to begin with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and end with the conquest of the Greek world by the Romans, a process well underway by 146 BCE, when the Greek mainland was taken, and essentially ending in 31 BCE with the conquest of Ptolemaic Egypt following the Battle of Actium. A number of the best-known works of Greek sculpture belong to this period, including Laocoön and His Sons, Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. It follows the period of Classical Greek art, while the succeeding Greco-Roman art was very largely a continuation of Hellenistic trends.

The term Hellenistic refers to the expansion of Greek influence and dissemination of its ideas following the death of Alexander – the "Hellenizing" of the world, with Koine Greek as a common language. The term is a modern invention; the Hellenistic World not only included a huge area covering the whole of the Aegean, rather than the Classical Greece focused on the Poleis of Athens and Sparta, but also a huge time range. In artistic terms this means that there is huge variety which is often put under the heading of "Hellenistic Art" for convenience.

One of the defining characteristics of the Hellenistic period was the division of Alexander's empire into smaller dynastic empires founded by the diadochi (Alexander's generals who became regents of different regions): the Ptolemies in Egypt, the Seleucids in Mesopotamia, Persia, and Syria, the Attalids in Pergamon, etc. Each of these dynasties practiced a royal patronage which differed from those of the city-states. In Alexander's entourage were three artists: Lysippus the sculptor, Apelles the painter, and Pyrgoteles the gem cutter and engraver. The period after his death was one of great prosperity and considerable extravagance for much of the Greek world, at least for the wealthy. Royalty became important patrons of art. Sculpture, painting and architecture thrived, but vase-painting ceased to be of great significance. Metalwork and a wide variety of luxury arts produced much fine art. Some types of popular art were increasingly sophisticated.

There has been a trend in writing history to depict Hellenistic art as a decadent style, following the Golden Age of Classical Greece. The 18th century terms Baroque and Rococo have sometimes been applied to the art of this complex and individual period. A renewed interest in historiography as well as some recent discoveries, such as the tombs of Vergina, may allow a better appreciation of the period.


The pandura (Ancient Greek: πανδοῦρα, pandoura) or pandore, an ancient string instrument, belonged in the broad class of the lute and guitar instruments. Akkadians played similar instruments from the 3rd millennium BC. Ancient Greek artwork depicts such lutes from the 3rd or 4th century BC onward.

Pottery of ancient Greece

Ancient Greek pottery, due to its relative durability, comprises a large part of the archaeological record of ancient Greece, and since there is so much of it (over 100,000 painted vases are recorded in the Corpus vasorum antiquorum), it has exerted a disproportionately large influence on our understanding of Greek society. The shards of pots discarded or buried in the 1st millennium BC are still the best guide available to understand the customary life and mind of the ancient Greeks. There were several vessels produced locally for everyday and kitchen use, yet finer pottery from regions such as Attica was imported by other civilizations throughout the Mediterranean, such as the Etruscans in Italy. There were various specific regional varieties, such as the South Italian ancient Greek pottery.

Throughout these places, various types and shapes of vases were used. Not all were purely utilitarian; large Geometric amphorae were used as grave markers, kraters in Apulia served as tomb offerings and Panathenaic Amphorae seem to have been looked on partly as objets d’art, as were later terracotta figurines. Some were highly decorative and meant for elite consumption and domestic beautification as much as serving a storage or other function, such as the krater with its usual use in diluting wine.

Earlier Greek styles of pottery, called "Aegean" rather than "Ancient Greek", include Minoan pottery, very sophisticated by its final stages, Cycladic pottery, Minyan ware and then Mycenaean pottery in the Bronze Age, followed by the cultural disruption of the Greek Dark Age. As the culture recovered Sub-Mycenaean pottery finally blended into the Protogeometric style, which begins Ancient Greek pottery proper.The rise of vase painting saw increasing decoration. Geometric art in Greek pottery was contiguous with the late Dark Age and early Archaic Greece, which saw the rise of the Orientalizing period. The pottery produced in Archaic and Classical Greece included at first black-figure pottery, yet other styles emerged such as red-figure pottery and the white ground technique. Styles such as West Slope Ware were characteristic of the subsequent Hellenistic period, which saw vase painting's decline.

Standing Youth (Munich SL 162)

The Standing Youth is a terracotta Tanagra figurine in the Staatliche Antikensammlungen in Munich with the inventory numbery SL 162, which was formerly part the collection of James Loeb. The red-brown clay statuette measures 30.7 cm high and was created around 325-300 BC in Boeotia.

The statuette depicts a young man standing on a base of two steps. His head is crowned by a ring of beads and a round hat. He is dressed in a belted chiton and a himation. He grips the draped fabric with both hands. His right hand is lost in this fabirc. It probably held a stick, as shown by a round bore hole.

Tanagra (disambiguation)

Tanagra is a municipality in central Greece.

Tanagra figurineTanagra may also refer to:

Tanagra, a mythical location in "Darmok", an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Tanagra", a song by Matthieu Chedid from Mister Mystère

Tanagra (machine learning), an open source data mining software for academic and research purposes

Tanagra, an older synonym for Tangara (genus), a genus of birds

Tanagra expositata, the white-tipped black or snowbush spanworm, a moth


Terracotta, terra cotta or terra-cotta (pronounced [ˌtɛrraˈkɔtta]; Italian: "baked earth", from the Latin terra cocta), a type of earthenware, is a clay-based unglazed or glazed ceramic, where the fired body is porous. Terracotta is the term normally used for sculpture made in earthenware, and also for various practical uses including vessels (notably flower pots), water and waste water pipes, roofing tiles, bricks, and surface embellishment in building construction. The term is also used to refer to the natural brownish orange color of most terracotta, which varies considerably.

This article covers the senses of terracotta as a medium in sculpture, as in the Terracotta Army and Greek terracotta figurines, and architectural decoration. Asian and European sculpture in porcelain is not covered. Glazed architectural terracotta and its unglazed version as exterior surfaces for buildings were used in Asia for some centuries before becoming popular in the West in the 19th century. Architectural terracotta can also refer to decorated ceramic elements such as antefixes and revetments, which made a large contribution to the appearance of temples and other buildings in the classical architecture of Europe, as well as in the Ancient Near East.

In archaeology and art history, "terracotta" is often used to describe objects such as figurines not made on a potter's wheel. Vessels and other objects that are or might be made on a wheel from the same material are called earthenware pottery; the choice of term depends on the type of object rather than the material or firing technique. Unglazed pieces, and those made for building construction and industry, are also more likely to be referred to as terracotta, whereas tableware and other vessels are called earthenware (though sometimes terracotta if unglazed), or by a more precise term such as faience.

Truman Capote

Truman Garcia Capote (; born Truman Streckfus Persons, September 30, 1924 – August 25, 1984) was an American novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, playwright, and actor. Several of his short stories, novels, and plays have been praised as literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) and the true crime novel In Cold Blood (1966), which he labeled a "nonfiction novel". At least 20 films and television dramas have been produced from his work.

Capote rose above a childhood troubled by divorce, a long absence from his mother, and multiple migrations. He had discovered his calling as a writer by the age of 8, and for the rest of his childhood he honed his writing ability. Capote began his professional career writing short stories. The critical success of one story, "Miriam" (1945), attracted the attention of Random House publisher Bennett Cerf, and resulted in a contract to write the novel Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948). Capote earned the most fame with In Cold Blood, a journalistic work about the murder of a Kansas farm family in their home. Capote spent four years writing the book aided by his lifelong friend Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird (1960).A milestone in popular culture, In Cold Blood was the peak of Capote's literary career. In the 1970s, he maintained his celebrity status by appearing on television talk shows.

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