Private Collection [sold, Fine Antiquities, Christie's, London, July 8, 1992, lot 121, to Charles Ede.]
Charles Ede, Ltd. (London, England)
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Statuette of a Seated Comic Actor
Greek (South Italian, Tarantine)
Apulia, South Italy (Place Created)
Terracotta with white slip
10.3 × 4.1 × 6.4 cm (4 1/16 × 1 5/8 × 2 1/2 in.)
Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman
Made in a two-piece mold, this terracotta statuette depicts a comic actor from the Greek theater. Sitting cross-legged on an altar, the actor holds his right arm close to his body and raises his left hand to his chin in a "plotting" gesture. He wears a short tunic with sleeves and belt, a short cloak, a section of which hangs below the left shoulder, and T-strap sandals. His mask has a short shovel-shaped beard accentuating the broad, grinning mouth, and his thick hair is brushed back from the forehead in a sort of pompadour. The costume and mask characterize the figure as a slave, and the runaway slave taking sanctuary at an altar was a stock character in Greek comedy of this time.
Statuettes of actors were popular in ancient households, and are regularly found in burials in Southern Italy and Sicily. Slave figures were especially popular and some scholars believe that figures like this may have belonged to sets that could be assembled to enact a famous scene from a comedy. More generally, their association with theatrical subjects can be linked to the spread of the cult of Dionysos.
Christie's, London. Sale cat., Fine Antiquities. July 8, 1992, lot 121.
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), pp. 234-35, cat. no. 117.
"Museum Acquisitions Between July 1, 1996, and June 30, 1998." The Report of the J. Paul Getty Trust (1997-98), p. 67.
Spivey, Nigel and Squire, Michael. Panorama of the Classical World (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2004), p. 266, fig. 419.