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Work The "Titeux" Dancer

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

"Danseuse Titeux"

© 2007 RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Author(s):
Mathieux Néguine

For many years, this figurine symbolized the so-called "Tanagra" statuettes that enjoyed huge popularity throughout Europe in the late nineteenth century. It is, however, an earlier work, heralding the Tanagra style, but created by Athenian artists around 375-350 BCE. The dancing girl may be a bride or a nymph, and the figure probably had a religious significance, although her exact identity remains a mystery.

An Attic work

This figurine, named for its first owner, was discovered in 1846 in one of the trenches dug at the foot of the Propylaea or entrance gateway on the north side of the Acropolis, not far from the grotto dedicated to Pan. It was nonetheless celebrated in the nineteenth century as a masterpiece of "Tanagra" sculpture - a type of figurine named for the central Greek settlement where many examples were found. The statuette was a source of inspiration for countless artists, who made copies in every size and medium, from bronze, earthenware and glass paste to watercolor. Modern analyses of the clay, and the stylistic similarity between this piece and a relief of nymphs in the Acropolis museum (no. 6064), tend to support the hypothesis that it was made in Attica - a theory already formulated in the nineteenth century.

A new style is born

This clay statuette may be a faithful copy of a large-scale sculpture in the round. This theory is supported by a comparison with a relief of nymphs in the Acropolis museum in Athens, by the figure's dynamic movement (particularly in the forward placement of the right leg) and by the careful working of the back of the piece. Figures of dancing girls and representations of actors were the earliest subjects for clay sculptures in the round, and the first to be made using two-part molds, a technique which was widely adopted shortly before 350 BCE.
The delicate folds of the seemingly transparent drapery herald the Tanagra style, and the figure is clearly influenced by Attic sculptural trends (the so-called Rich style). In a play of fluid, graceful lines, the feminine body is more revealed than concealed.

Dancer, bride or nymph?

The subject, meaning and function of this statuette - traditionally described simply as a dancer - prefigure several characteristics of the later Tanagra figurines. This is one of the first representations in clay of the so-called "veiled dancers" seen on Attic vases starting in the fifth century BCE.
Their exact significance probably varied depending on their context, but remains the subject of controversy. Figures such as this have been found throughout the Mediterranean in temples, tombs and houses, and may well be figures of nymphs or maenads associated with the cult of Dionysus. They may equally relate to the cult of Aphrodite, representing brides unveiled by their husbands on their wedding day.

Bibliography

Besques Simone, Catalogue raisonné des figurines et reliefs en terre cuite grecs, étrusques et romains, III, Époques hellénistique et romaine, Grèce et Asie Mineure, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1972, p. 2, pl. 1 F, n D 4.
Besques Simone, Figurines et reliefs grecs en terre cuite, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1994, p. 33, fig. 95.
Jeammet Violaine (sous la dir. de), Tanagra, mythe et archéologie, cat. exp. Paris, musée du Louvre, 15 septembre 2003-5 janvier 2004, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, 5 février-9 mai 2004, Montréal, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal; Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2003, pp. 37, 54-59, 124-125, 146,147, 310, n 95.
Raftopoulou E. G., "Étude iconographique sur un thème de la toreutique", in Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique (BCH), 115, 1991, pp. 259-281.

Technical description

  • "Danseuse Titeux"

    Vers 350 ? avant J.-C.

    Provenance et fabrication : Athènes

  • H. : 21 cm.

  • Don Cavelier, 1891

    CA 462

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Greek terracotta figurines
    Room 36
    Vitrine 14

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