The J. Paul Getty Museum

Statuette of a Seated Comic Actor

Object Details


Statuette of a Seated Comic Actor




Greek (South Italian, Tarantine)


Apulia, South Italy (Place Created)


400–200 B.C.


Terracotta with white slip

Object Number:



10.3 × 4.1 × 6.4 cm (4 1/16 × 1 5/8 × 2 1/2 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman

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Object Description

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.


Private Collection [sold, Fine Antiquities, Christie's, London, July 8, 1992, lot 121, to Charles Ede.]


Charles Ede, Ltd. (London, England)

1992 - 1996

Barbara Fleischman and Lawrence Fleischman, American, 1925 - 1997 (New York, New York), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996.

A Passion for Antiquities: Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman (October 13, 1994 to April 23, 1995)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), October 13, 1994 to January 15, 1995
  • The Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland), February 14 to April 23, 1995
The Art of Ancient Greek Theater (August 26, 2010 to January 3, 2011)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa (Malibu), August 26, 2010 to January 3, 2011

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.

Ferruzza, Maria Lucia. Ancient Terracottas from South Italy and Sicily in the J. Paul Getty Museum. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2016), no. 27, ill.