Not currently on view
Miniature Theatrical Mask of a Woman
Eastern Mediterranean (Place Created)
3rd century B.C.
Terracotta with polychromy
9 × 5.5 cm (3 9/16 × 2 3/16 in.)
Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman
Theater was a central part of Greek culture. Although tragedy was more prestigious, by the 200s B.C. comedy was the more popular form. Beginning around 320 B.C., the work of the playwright Menander had brought about a change in Greek comedy. Where earlier performances had derived much of their humor from parodying public figures and events, this so‑called New Comedy centered on the trials and tribulations of the daily lives of normal people. Almost all these plays now included a love story, and much of the humor came from seeing how the young lovers would overcome the obstacles set in their path toward marriage. These plays tended to be formulaic and featured casts of repeating stock characters.
This small terracotta mask appears to represent one such stock character, the enslaved girl or maid. Her hair is parted in the middle and falls to either side. She has a small upward‑curving nose, and her mouth forms a small oval. Much paint survives on the mask; white for the flesh and red for the hair.
True, Marion, and Kenneth Hamma, eds. A Passion For Antiquities. Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, exh. cat. (Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1994), p. 355, cat. no. 239 B.
"Museum Acquisitions Between July 1, 1996, and June 30, 1998." The Report of the J. Paul Getty Trust (1997-98), p. 67.