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 The Terracotta Figurines Collection

The Terracotta Figurines Collection

The approximately 550 terracotta figurines of the National Archaeological Museum are exhibited in 2 rooms according to their chronological development from the Geometric to the Roman period. They represent the main production workshops of the Greek world (Attic, Boeotian, Ionian, Euboean, Cretan), as well as the most important of those in the Peloponnese and Asia Minor.

In Room 58 one follows the coroplastic types of the Boeotian workshop, from the flat female figurines with birdlike faces and tall crowns of the 6th c. BC, to the peplophoroi of the 5th and 4th c. BC, and from these to the well-known “Tanagras” with rich garments and elegant hats. Boeotian figurines of youths follow a similar course, those of the 5th c. BC, who usually hold a cockerel in their left hand, gradually developing by the 4th c. BC into the epheboi of the Hellenistic period. The Attic workshop progresses from the handmade bell- shaped figurines of the Geometric period to the types of the enthroned goddess (possibly Athena herself) and the standing female holding a flower or fruit to her breast of the 6th and 5th c. BC. In contrast to these, the Peloponnesian workshops, excepting Corinth which kept up with the rich production of the other great centres, avoid renewal of coroplastic types.

The terracotta figurines from Myrina in Asia Minor, donated to the National Museum by Ioannis Misthos in 1884, fill the second room (Room 59) almost entirely. The city’s coroplastic workshops, influenced at the beginning by Boeotian and Attic production, and later (200-150 BC) by that of Alexandria and Pergamon, produced impressive types: Nikai holding shells, Erotes with torches or depicted as children playing with animals, female figures, goddesses (usually types of Aphrodite) and mortals with elaborate coiffures and garments, musicians and dancers, are examples of a superb art which flourished until the beginning of the 2nd c. AD.

A separate group represented in the exhibition consists of figurines rendering scenes from everyday life, mostly household and agricultural tasks; another is devoted to the world of children, while one more special category is related to music and dance.