Greek Painted Terracotta Figure of Persephone

Greek · 3rd century B.C.




H: 52 cm (20.4 in)





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The upper portion of the sculpture looking like a tall head-crown, a polos, worn by a woman, is supplied with an everted mouth and is a container for the incenses – as a whole, the piece is a sculptural thymiaterion, an incense-burner. It is shaped as a figure of a young and pretty woman dressed in a long, thin-fabric chiton with no sleeves, fastened with a fibula at her right shoulder, and a vast himation wrapped at her lower body and around the left shoulder. The multiple folds of both garments create an intricate pattern, at the same time, letting the shapes of the young body to be recognized. Her exquisite look is completed with voluminous earrings and a wreath of leaves and a berry cluster, and it was even more attractive with the details and parts marked by vivid colors. The terracotta figure preserves their remains: a red-brown in her hair, purple and blue in chiton, pink in himation. The figure’s posture adopts the composition of the marble statues, with a figure leaning at a tall pillar (a necessary support for a marble sculpture).

Considering a polos as an attribute of a goddess of fertility (or a person affiliated with the cult), it is possible to suggest that the young woman represents Demeter’s daughter, Persephone. The gesture of her right hand could be interpreted as an offering gesture, while she held an object in her left hand, most probably, a pomegranate.


Art market, prior to 1930;

Ex- Pierre & Claude Vérité collection, acquired between 1930 and 1960, Paris.


ZACCAGNINO C., Il Thymiaterion nel Mondo Greco: analisi delle fonti, tipologia, impieghi, Roma, 1998.