Terracotta mantle-dancer


British Museum

British Museum

Figures of dancers are popular in terracotta and are occasionally found in bronze from the fourth century BC onwards. Sometimes the figures are so closely wrapped in their voluminous mantles that only their eyes are visible. The reason for their dance is not known, but it may have been a festival in honour of a female deity.Here the dancer pirouettes to her left, with her left leg flung out and her head twisted back over her right shoulder. Her left arm, now missing, was probably once extended, while her right, muffled in her himation (mantle), lies across her breast. The lower edge of the himation swirls out across the ground, helping to anchor the twisting and swaying pose.The maker of this terracotta chose an ambitious angle from which to view the figure. Most Hellenistic terracottas were made with a fully modelled front and a back that was modelled either lightly, or not at all. On this figure, the back and right side are fully modelled, while the front and left side are almost flat and partially built up by hand. Good parallels for the pose of this figure are found in southern Italy and Sicily, with which the Greek settlements in Cyrenaica (in modern Libya) enjoyed close trading contacts.

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  • Title: Terracotta mantle-dancer
  • Date Created: -200/-200
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 19.50cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: hand-modelled
  • Subject: dancer
  • Registration number: 1856,1001.43
  • Production place: Made in Cyrenaica (archaic)
  • Place: Found/Acquired Banghazi
  • Period/culture: Hellenistic
  • Material: terracotta
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Werry, F H S