Archaic Greek Terracotta Kore
Greek · Archaic, ca. 525 B.C.
H: 68.2 cm
This majestic, standing goddess embodies a remarkable presence, which is accentuated by well-preserved surface details.The goddess is crowned with a red colored diadem and is adorned with a necklace, also in red, and earrings. The abundant decorative coloration of her clothing shows us that they were richly embellished: at the front, an alternating lotus ﬂower chain extends downward from the ornamented necklines of her garments, and at the waist she wears a belt decorated with small squares of alternating red and blue 1. She wears three garments: 1) a chiton, the upper border of which is visible at the neckline below her necklace, and the lower border of which drapes across the top of her feet; 2) a belted peplos, the upper border of which is decorated with zigzag lines and red triangular shapes; 3) a shawl-like epiblema hanging down from the shoulders along her sides, the border of which is emphasized by a red band along each outer edge. The three-dimensional modeling of the garment is particularly evident as it hangs down from the ﬁgure’s waist area to pointed ends above the feet. At the corners of the epiblema, zigzag lines done in blue paint are used to indicate the elegant folds of cloth. Painted eyes, eyebrows, and lips delineate an expressive face, animated with the soft “Archaic smile,” so well known from the group of Archaic korai from the Athenian Acropolis. In many respects this terracotta sculpture shares afﬁnities with the marble Archaic korai found there, particularly the kore known as Acropolis 593, which dates to circa 560-550 B.C.2. In a pose similar to Acropolis 593, one arm of the ﬁgure is lowered and holds a ring-like wreath, which is decorated with alternating red and bluish turquoise tongues 3. The other arm is bent at the elbow with a hand held between the breasts. The Acropolis example holds a pomegranate, a fruit most often associated with the goddesses Hera, Demeter, and Persephone 4. In her right hand, this goddess also held an attribute, now missing, but it was likely a pomegranate or a ﬂower, either of which would be appropriate as a symbol of the earth’s fertility. Similar to hairstyles of other Archaic korai, the hair of the goddess is indicated by wavy horizontal locks extending across her forehead, and two tresses extending down from behind the ears on each side of her head, draping across her upper shoulders and down to her breasts. At the back, which would have been unseen by the viewer, the hair is simply rendered as a quadrangular mass. Like many of the Acropolis korai, the goddess also places her left foot forward and ahead of her right foot, which adds a sense of naturalism to her otherwise hieratic and formal bearing.
Both the richly decorated clothing she wears and the diadem that crowns this stately ﬁgure mark her as the representation of a divinity, perhaps Demeter or her daughter, Persephone, also known as Kore (daughter or maiden) by the Greeks 5. In antiquity the two were so closely linked that they were also known as “the Two Goddesses” or sometimes the “Demeteres.” As goddesses of fertility, both were associated with the fecundity of the earth, particularly with the production of wheat. Because of this association with agriculture and growth, the settled rhythm of life, they were also regarded as important inﬂuences in the development of civilization. The earliest and best known Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone is recorded in an epic poem dating to the Archaic period, the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, which relates to the most important cult involving these divinities 6. This famous myth tells of Persephone’s abduction by Hades, brother of Zeus and king of the underworld. When she was picking ﬂowers in a meadow, Hades carried Persephone off to his underworld realm. Demeter’s search for her daughter proved fruitless, causing Demeter to withdraw from her normal functions, causing the failure of crops and the withering of vegetation throughout the world. Humankind would have starved without the intervention of Zeus. When all efforts failed to convince Demeter to continue her duties as goddess of fertility, Zeus sent Hermes to persuade Hades to release Persephone. Hades agreed to this, but not before tricking the young goddess into eating some seeds of the pomegranate. Consequently, Persephone was required to spend part of the year with her husband in the underworld and part with her mother in the upper world.
Art market, prior to 1999;
Ex- American private collection, acquired on the London art market, 1999
Crystal 2, pp. 46-51, Geneva, 2008.
CHAMAY, J., Le sourire Archaïque. Déesse Grecque en terre cuite. In Art Passion, december 2008, pp. 66-69.
Biennale des Antiquaires, Paris, 2008
About korai in general, see:
BROUSKARI M., The Acropolis Museum: A Descriptive Catalogue, Athènes, 1974, pp. 43-44 (Acropole 593).
KARAKASI K., Archaic Korai, Los Angeles, 2003.
RICHTER G.M.A., Korai: Archaic Greek Maidens, Londres, 1968.
About the korai’s polichromy, see:
BRINKMANN V., Girl or Goddess?: The Riddle of the Peplos Kore from the Athenian Akropolis, in Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity, Munich, 2007.
About Demeter and Persephone:
RICHARDSON N.J., The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Oxford, 1974.
GANZ T., Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, Baltimore, 1993, pp. 63-70.
About Eleusis Mysteries, see:
MYLONAS G.E., Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries, Princeton, 1961.
SIMON E., Festivals of Attica: An Archaeological Commentary, Madison, 1983, pp. 17-37.
About Demeter and Persephone’s cult in South Italy, see:
BENNETT M. – PAUL A., Magna Graecia: Greek Art from South Italy and Sicily, Cleveland, 2002, n. 57 (autel avec trois femmes, dont une koré avec une couronne).
HINZ V., Der Kult von Demeter und Kore auf Sizilien und in der Magna Graecia, Wiesbaden, 1998.