Miniature Theatrical Mask of an Old Man

Unknownabout 3rd century B.C.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

In the Hellenistic Greek world, after the death of Alexander the Great, the production of terracotta figurines and masks boomed. Many of these terracottas drew on the world of the theater for their subject matter. The most popular form of theater in this period, the so‑called New Comedy, used a cast of stock characters and drew its humor from the trials of daily life. 

This miniature theatrical mask represents a grotesque figure from one of these plays, perhaps an old man. Like many Greek comedy masks, this one represents the antithesis of Greek ideals of beauty with large ears and broad, hooked nose. The wear on the mask makes it difficult to determine precisely whom or what it was meant to represent. It may be a standard character of New Comedy, the greedy parasite or flatterer. On the other hand, the features are so extreme that the face may not even be meant to be human. Its bestial features bear a resemblance to the goat‑god Pan.


  • Title: Miniature Theatrical Mask of an Old Man
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: about 3rd century B.C.
  • Location Created: Eastern Mediterranean
  • Physical Dimensions: 5 × 6 cm (1 15/16 × 2 3/8 in.)
  • Type: Mask
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Terracotta with polychromy
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 96.AD.263.1
  • Culture: Greek
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California, Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman
  • Creator Display Name: Unknown
  • Classification: Sculpture (Visual Works)

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps