Greek Bronze Statuette of an Actor
Period: (Attic), first half of the 4th Century B.C.
Dimensions: Height: 7.9 cm
Price: CHF 53,000
Ex-N. A. C. Embiricos Collection.
This amusing figurine wears a mask of a comic actor, characterized by grotesque features (open mouth, as if he were in the middle of delivering his lines, asymmetrical eyes, frowning brows, prominent cheeks, etc.): the man is dressed in a short-sleeved tunic and tight pants that do not cover his genitals. Underneath the tunic fastened at his left shoulder – designed to indicate an inferior social rank – the rounded stomach and the prominent buttocks accentuate the comic aspect of the figure. The man- who is standing in a frontal position – extends his arms to the left and to the right in a very theatrical posture: in his hands, he holds plates or vessels, whose leftovers remain on his open palms. Like the notable example of a complete statuette with its attributes found at Olinthus, this appears to be a kitchen slave (a cook, a server), who imitates the authoritative air of his master: this is a very popular character from the ancient low theater whose importance is also emphasized by the central role played by the banquet in these theatrical genres.
The typology of this figurine is also known from replicas in terracotta and from a small number of bronze pieces that nevertheless present some small differences in position, the expression of the mask and in the more or less stylized execution. This bronze example in solid bronze is whole and the surface of the metal is in good condition; it is more volumetric and better modeled than other similar pieces.
Probably created in Attica at the beginning of the 4th century B.C., maybe after the last works by Aristophanes, this mask was certainly used until around 330 B.C. when Menander profoundly changed the nature of Athenian comic theater to create the New Comedy.
WEBSTER T.B.L., Monuments illustrating Old and Middle Comedy, Third Edition revised and enlarged by J.R. Green, London, 1978, p. 58-59, AT 22f.
BIEBER M., The History of the Greek and Roman Theater, Princeton, 1961, pp. 45-48, n. fig. 198.
TRENDALL A.D. – WEBSTER T.B.L., Illustrations of Greek Drama, London, 1971, p. 127, pl. IV,9, n. 20.