Deity figure

Greek; Boeotian
first half of 6th century BCE
more object details

General Description

This handmade figurine belongs to a large group of early sixth-century BCE examples, many of which were recovered from the ancient cemeteries at Tanagra in the last century. The cruciform figure has a flat body, a very long neck, and a mouselike head surmounted by a polos (cylindrical cap) with a single spiral emerging from the front. A painted curl covers each temple area, small circles indicate the eyes, and diagonal lines depict long, vertical tresses that cascade down to the shoulders. Various curvilinear and other abstract patterns decorate the front of the body. A pendant or suspended pomegranate is painted on the lower neck.

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  • DMA unpublished material.