Terracotta head shaped like a vase


British Museum

British Museum

This terracotta head of a fashionable lady from southern Italy would have been made as part of a set of vases to be placed inside a tomb. Many vases at this time were made in the shape of heads. This one has no base, but it did not need to be functional, as it was made especially for the tomb and never actually used. Many of the painted details remain, including the eyebrows and lashes, tendrils of hair around the face, alternate pink and blue petals on the diadem or tiara, and a red hairnet (visible at the back of the head) tied with pink ribbons. Canosa, modern Canosa di Puglia, was one of the most important cities in ancient Apulia. Apulia, covering the region of the 'heel' of Italy, was the closest part of Italy to Greece, but despite Greek influence, local culture was strongly maintained from the Bronze Age through to Roman times. The wealth of some of the population is reflected in the hypogea, vast underground chamber-tombs in which most of the surviving local pottery has been found.

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  • Title: Terracotta head shaped like a vase
  • Date Created: -325/-300
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 35.56cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted; moulded
  • Registration number: 1859,0216.4
  • Production place: Made in Canosa di Puglia
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Calvi
  • Period/culture: Apulian (local); Daunian
  • Material: terracotta
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Auldjo, M H H