Terracotta figure of an actor


British Museum

British Museum

The face of this figure is a highly stylized mask of an old man, balding and heavily wrinkled, with squinting eyes and a long, square-cut beard. On his head are two wreaths: one of leaves, the other bound with ribbons or streamers. The mask has been identified as that of the brothel-keeper, one of the stock characters of New Comedy. This type of farce became popular throughout Greece from the late fourth century BC. A terracotta actor or a dramatic mask placed in a tomb might suggest the dead person was a keen theatregoer. In some parts of the Greek world it might also reflect the role of Dionysos, as the god in whose honour most theatrical performances were staged, and as an underworld deity. Theatrical terracottas have also been found in private houses in various places, including Ephesos and Priene (both in modern Turkey). Newly painted, suspended against the walls or placed on shelves or ledges, such terracottas would have looked extremely decorative.

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  • Title: Terracotta figure of an actor
  • Date Created: -199/-100
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 190.00mm; Width: 58.00mm; Depth: 53.00mm; Weight: 176.00g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Subject: actor/actress
  • Registration number: 1893,0915.5
  • Production place: Made in Myrina
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Myrina
  • Period/culture: Hellenistic
  • Material: terracotta
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Dennis, George