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Work Draped woman wearing a himation and holding a fan

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Hellenistic Art (3rd-1st centuries BC)

Draped woman wearing a himation and holding a fan

© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Anne Chauvet

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Hellenistic Art (3rd-1st centuries BC)

Author(s):
Mathieux Néguine

This elegantly draped and modestly veiled figurine is one of the finest examples of Tanagra statuette, named after the city of Tanagra in Boeotia, Greece, where they were discovered in 1870.
The pose and dress are those of a known statuary type, and its opulence and sumptuous polychromy are evidence that it is one of the many statuettes produced by the only workshop identified in Tanagra.

An exceptional terra-cotta work

The young woman is tightly swathed in a cloak, held in her left hand. The cloak covers her right arm and hand, holding a fan, and falls, revealing the pleated fall of a chiton. The pose and the arrangement of the draperies in diagonal lines are derived from a known statuary type developed by the Athenian sculptor Praxiteles or his immediate circle in the last third of the fourth century BC.
The terra-cotta work is exceptional, however, in both design and technical skill. The maker succeeded in giving a monumental air to a statuette of modest size, even if it is distinctly larger than other terra-cotta figurines. The piece was reworked with a tool after removal from the mold to give finesse and sharpness to the relief. The polychromy was applied accurately, and the use of gilding, which was rare, enhances the quality of the piece.

The finest piece from a Tanagra workshop

Accounts dating to the figurine's discovery in the Tanagra necropolis suggest that it was found in a tomb with three other identical figurines. Comparison with the latter, now dispersed in various public and private collections, shows great similarity in style, probably indicating that they were made in the same workshop. In the light of these features and the results of laboratory analyses to identify the clays used, other works in the Louvre can be attributed to this workshop. Known as the "Workshop of the Woman in Blue," it was probably where the first Tanagra figurines were made and is the only workshop that has been identified in the city.

A new style

Beginning in 1871, more than 8,000 tombs were found at Tanagra. Half contained terra-cotta figurines with various subjects (girls and young men seated or standing, children, old women, crying women, deities, etc.). The figurines are evidence of a new style that began in Athens in the third quarter of the fourth century BC. It was soon adopted in Tanagra, a wealthy but discreet town in Boeotia, Greece, where there was a long tradition of working in clay. The new style was exported and then imitated throughout the Mediterranean region until the late third century BC to the extent that it is a marker of Greek civilization of the period. Found in tombs and sanctuaries (as offerings to the gods), the figurines had a great number of uses and are probably less depictions of everyday life than objects with symbolic significance related to the divine world.

Bibliography

Besques S., Catalogue raisonné des figurines et reliefs en terre cuite grecs, étrusques et romains, Musée du Louvre, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, III, 1972, p.16, pl.14b, n D 60.
Sous la direction de Besques S., Figurines et reliefs grecs en terre cuite, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1994, p.17, 29, fig.52.
Tanagra, Mythe et archéologie, cat. exp., collectif, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 2003, p.194-197, n 132.

Technical description

  • Workshop of the Woman in Blue (?)

    Draped woman wearing a himation and holding a fan

    Circa 300-250 BC

    Boeotia, Greece

    Tanagra, Greece

  • Pinkish-brown terra-cotta, folds reworked with a tool, paint, gold leaf, pink ivory

    H. 32.5 cm; L. 13.6 cm; D. 9.3 cm

  • Purchased 1876

    MNB 907

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Greek terracotta figurines
    Room 36

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