Female figure

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.


- Sotheby’s. Catalogue of Antiquities. 14th – 15th December 1981. London. Lot 303.


- R.A. HIGGINS. Greek Terracottas. Methuen & Co LTD. 1967.

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