Figurine of the god Eros

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The figurine of a child who can be identified as the god Eros. He is wearing a tunic that covers part of his head like the hood of a cape and which only covers him from the waist up. His wings are spread out so that the feathers with remains of some green pigment can be discerned. His head is slightly bowed and inclined to the right. The right leg is straight with the left slightly crossed behind, making the figurine seem to be a little twisted from the waist. He pose is a delicate one, almost as if he were in flight.

There is a hand pressed against the back and buttocks of the god, but which seems to be broken off from another figure. Both for this reason and for parallels pieces which are in existence, we can deduct that this figurine formed part of a much larger sculptural group. This ensemble was made up of a female of a larger size also made of terracotta and decorated in light colours, with probably her right hand holding the god of love.

Eros was one of the primordial gods of Ancient Greece. He was the god of sexual attraction and love and also worshipped as the god of fertility. In some myths he was the son of Aphrodite and Ares, but according to Plato’s The Banquet, he was conceived by Poros (plenty) and Penia (poverty) on the occasion of the birthday of Aphrodite. This explained the different aspects of love.

At the end of the 4th Century BC a style of modeling clay called “Tanagra style” was developed. The name comes from the city of the same name, a center of production of terracotta figurines. The term alludes to a female figure, generally one standing, wearing a long draped chiton, over which was thrown a fine wide cloak. These women also often wore shoes, wide pointed hats and carried fans. They rarely carried other objects and in place of these, the arms and hands were wrapped in the cloak which could also be used to cover the head, and sometimes to almost completely cover the face.

The classical composition - in which the body is shown with weight thrown on one supporting foot and with the other resting freely – is not present in these figurines. They are also conceived to be seen front on. One foot is placed slightly to one side and slightly in front or behind the other. The body seems thus to oscillate, and a raising or lowering of the head or a turning of the face to the right or the left, accentuates this impression even more so. The arms are not hanging rigidly along the sides of the body as it archaic and classical periods, but rather lie across the stomach or the chest, or rest on the hips.

The faces of the women are marked by melancholy expressions or by one of inward meditation and they are hardly ever shown smiling. A hair style in which the hair is centrally parted and pulled back in a bun, called the “melon” hair style, is the most commonly seen on these terracottas.

Along with the standing woman - the principal motif of the coraplasters of the molds for the Tanagra figurines - women seated or squatting, children, youths standing or seated and even entire groups of people were also represented. There are often figures with masks or musical instruments in their hands, grotesque figures and actors. With the exception of Aphrodite and Eros, the gods are very infrequently represented.

Although the fame of these figurines is associated with those of Tanagra, the style extended across the Greek world and could be seen in places like Corinth, Alexandria, Cyprus, Sicily and Italy. The workshops of Tanagra stopped producing around 200 BC while others continued working in that style until the 1st Century AD.

PARALELLS:

- Louvre Museum, Paris, France. Inv. CA 575.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

- HIGGINS., R.A. Greek Terracottas. Methuen & Co LTD. 1967.
- Jeammet, V. Tanagras. Figurines for Life and Eternity: The Musee Du Louvre's Collection of Greek Figurines. Musée du Louvre. Fundación Bancaja, Valencia 2010. p.120.

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