Open Content images tend to be large in file-size. To avoid potential data charges from your carrier, we recommend making sure your device is connected to a Wi-Fi network before downloading.
This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.
Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 109, Mythological Heroes; Not currently on view
Sculptural Group of a Seated Poet and Sirens (2) with unjoined fragmentary curls (304)
Tarentum (Taras), South Italy (Place created)
350 - 300 B.C.
Terracotta with Polychromy
A seated man is flanked by sirens, creatures part bird and part woman, in this nearly life-size terracotta group. In Greek mythology, the singing of the sirens lured sailors to their deaths; thus the creatures have general funerary connotations. The seated man is also a singer, as shown by his open mouth and his now-missing lyre, which he once cradled in his left arm. His precise identity, however, is uncertain. He might be Orpheus, who was famous for his singing and who traveled to the land of the dead and was able to return. But in art of this period, Orpheus is usually shown wearing a specific Eastern costume not seen here. Therefore, this man may just be an ordinary mortal, perhaps the deceased, in the guise of a poet or singer.
Originally brightly painted, this large-scale terracotta sculpture is characteristic of the Greek colonies in South Italy. With its funerary imagery, the group may have decorated a tomb. Although terracotta sculpture is also found in mainland Greece, artists in the Greek colonies in South Italy used this medium with greater frequency and on a larger scale because there were few sources of good stone suitable for sculpting.
Bank Leu, A.G. (Zurich, Switzerland), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1976.
Fredericksen, Burton B., Jírí Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed. Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978), pp. 48-49.
Frel, Jirí. Antiquities in the J. Paul Getty Museum. A Checklist. Sculpture I. Greek Originals. Malibu: May 1979. pp. 25-26, nos. 99-101.
Frel, Jirí. Antiquities in the J. Paul Getty Museum. A Checklist. Sculpture II. Greek Portraits and Varia. Malibu: November 1979. addendum, p. 44, nos. 99-101
Fredericksen, Burton B., et al. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook. 5th ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1980), p. 34.
Vermeule, Cornelius C. Greek and Roman Sculpture in America. Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1981. pp. 150-51, no. 118.
West, M. L. The Orphic Poems, Oxford and New York: 1983. p. 25, fig. 4.
Mattusch, C., "Field Notes," Archaeological News 13, 1/2 (1984). pp. 34-35, ill. p. 35.
The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 1st ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986), p. 33.
Detienne, Marcel. L'ecriture d'Orphee. (Paris: 1989) frontispiece.
Hofstetter, Eva. Sirenem im archaischen und klassischen Griechenland. Wurzburg: 1990. pp. 11, 260-61, no. W 24; pl. 36.
The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 3rd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1991), p. 41.
Guzzo, Pier Giovanni. "Altre Note Tarantine" Taras 12.1 (1992), 135-141.
Bottini, Angelo, and Pier Giovanni Guzzo. "Orfeo e le Sirene al Getty Museum," Rivista di Antichita II, no. 1 (June 1993), pp. 43-52. pp. 43-52.
Neils, Jenifer. "Les Femmes Fatales: Skylla and the Sirens in Greek Art," The Distaff Side. B. Cohen, ed. New York and Oxford: 1995. pp. 175-184. fig. 51; p. 181.
Ferruzza, Maria Lucia. "Il Getty Museum e la Sicilia," Kalos. Arte in Sicilia 9, 3 (May-June 1997), pp. 4-11. fig. 8, pp. 4-11.
Hofstetter, Eva, and Ingrid Krauskopf. "Seirenes," Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae VIII (1997), pp. 1093-1104. p. 1101, no. 97; pl. 742.
The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 4th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 43.
Leclercq-Marx, Jacqueline. La Sirene dans la pensee et dans l'art de l'Antiquite et du Moyen Age. Brussels: 1997. pp. 37, 38, fig. 27, 288, no. 23.
Tsiafakis, Despoina. He Thrake sten Attike Eikonographia tou 5ou aiona p.X. (Thrace in Athenian Iconography of the Fifth Century B.C.) Komotini: 1998. p. 231; pl. 74.
The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 6th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), pp. 42-43.
Stewart, Susan. Poetry and the Fate of the Senses. Chicago, 2002. pp. 58, 106. Ilustrated only.
The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002) p. 116.
Clough, Jeanette. Cantatas: Poems. Huntington Beach: 2002. cover illustration.
Graf, Fritz and Sarah Iles Johnston. Ritual Texts for the Afterlife. Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets (Routledge, 2007) p. 65
The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 114.
Faraone, Christopher A. and Obbink, Dirk (eds.) The Getty Hexameters. Poetry, Magic, and Mystery in Ancient Selinous. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. p. 176, pl. 5
Students create paper sculptures based on Greek and Roman sculptures, and write stories told from the viewpoint of their sculptures.
Visual Arts; English–Language Arts