Greek; Boeotian
6th century BCE
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General Description

This figurine is closely related to other standing goddess figurines (1974.87.FA) in the Dallas Museum of Art's collection, all excavated at Tanagra and recorded in the cemetery at neighboring Rhitsona (ancient Mycalessus) in Boeotia. It can be classed with a figurine that dates to the mid-sixth century B.C.E. (1974.88.FA), although its smaller size and more summary decoration might place this object a few years later in date. The polos (cylindrical cap) has all but disappeared, and the eyes have grown larger. The body is thicker and decorated with cross-hatching on the front.

Small, painted ceramic figures like these were offerings to the fertility goddesses Demeter and Persephone. Demeter, goddess of the grain crops, was the Greek version of the Earth Mother. Her daughter Persephone, according to myth, was stolen by Hades, lord of the underworld. When Demeter mourned her daughter, the land withered and died. Persephone was released to the upper world, but since she had eaten several pomegranate seeds during her captivity, she had to return to Hades for the winter months. This kind of life/death/rebirth fertility myth has parallels in the Near East and Egypt.

These attractive mold-made figurines come from Boeotia, the country north of Attica, which produced a large volume of ceramic offering figures in the Archaic period. The Boeotian plain today, as in antiquity, is a productive area for wheat, so images of grain goddesses find a fitting place on Boeotian soil. These little moldmade figures are modest in scope, as they were not intended to be expensive, but they demonstrate the skills of Greek potters, who could produce charming works for large-scale production.

Adapted from

  • Anne R. Bromberg, and Karl Kilinski II, Gods, Men, and Heroes: Ancient Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), 49.

  • Anne Bromberg, Dallas Museum of Art: Selected Works (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1983), 95.

  • DMA unpublished material.