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Work Seated flat kourotrophic mouse-faced figurine

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Seated "mouse-faced" flat "kourotrophos" figurine

© 2000 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Hasselin Rous Isabelle

The flat figurine of a seated woman holding her child on her left arm belongs to the series of pappades produced in Boeotia in the Archaic period. The geometric decoration was added before firing, similar to Boeotian vases from the same period. It was made in the mid-6th century BC, when these mouse-faced figurines were at the height of their popularity. Whether Mother Goddess or mere mortal, this figure is related to the worship of kourotrophic divinities.

A woman holding her child

The figurine is of a woman seated on a stool with small armrests. On her left arm she is holding a child. The shape of the bodies is fairly rudimentary. The sculptor has taken a flat piece of clay, bent it to form the body and stool, and then added the back legs of the stool for support. He or she then added a long cylindrical neck and a head topped with a polos (a high cylindrical hat). The face - its nose created simply by pinching the clay - resembles that of a mouse. The arms and the child were sculpted separately, and then added to the composition. Both the long hair framing the neck and the disk on the front of the polos were created by adding small amounts of clay. Employing a technique that was also used for vases in the same period, the paint, which brings life to the rather rudimentary figures, was added prior to firing. Geometric patterns (chevrons, lines of dots, and triangles) are arranged in parallel lines on the clothing of both figures. A necklace with a cylindrical pendant and three smaller pendants adorns the woman's neck.

A Boeotian flat figure

The color of the clay and the painted patterns (still rooted in the Geometric period) are similar to those found on 6th century BC Boeotian vases, thus placing this figurine among the sculptural production of Archaic Boeotia. It belongs to the family of pappades: flat, polos-wearing figures with mouse heads or bird beaks. These figures are most often decorated with a central volute (in imitation of Boeotian libation vessels) produced in Boeotia between 625 and 550 BC. This kourotrophos figurine was created at the height of this period, circa 560-550 BC. This is based on its similarity to figurines discovered in archaeological contexts at Rhitsona and in the Akraiphia necropolis (Boeotia, Greece) that can be dated to this period.

Kourotrophoi in Greek civic cults

A figurine of a woman holding or breast-feeding a child was one of the principal offerings made to goddesses who were kourotrophoi - protectors of motherhood - such as Demeter, Persephone, Athena or Artemis. These figurines represented either the goddess herself or simply a mother with her child wishing to place herself under divine protection or dedicate the offering as a token of fertility. The discovery of this kourotrophos in the Tanagra necropolis could lead one to see this as a woman in the company of her child.


BESQUES S., Catalogue raisonné des figurines et reliefs en terre cuite grecs, étrusques et romains, I, 1954, p. 10, B 61, pl. 7.
Fiche pédagogique 3-33, Fonction des figurines en terre cuite grecques I : rites et cultes privés.
Tanagra. Mythe et Archéologie, catalogue d' exposition, Paris, Musée du Louvre, 2003, pp. 88-89, n 44.

Technical description

  • Seated "mouse-faced" flat "kourotrophos" figurine

    C. 560-550 BC

    Provenance and manufacture: Tanagra

  • H. 17.5 cm; W. 9.2 cm

  • Acquired in 1878 , 1878

    MNB 1323 

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

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