Object in Focus: A Terracotta Figurine of the Goddess Nike (C.531)

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Terracotta statuette of the goddess Nike (C.531)

This terracotta figurine is of the Greek goddess Nike (C.531). It dates to the Hellenistic period (2nd – 1st century BC) and comes from Apulia in Italy.

During the Hellenistic Period (c. 323-31 BC), winged statues of figures like this one of Nike, the personification of Victory, or of Eros, personification of love, became increasingly popular.

These figurines, typically made of terracotta, were mainly deposited in tombs, most often

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Terracotta figure of Nike (C.531)

those belong to women and children. They were also often placed in sanctuaries, where they were dedicated as votive offerings, expressing the desire of visitors to communicate with and show devotion to the gods.

By the 8th century BC, the city-states of Greece had colonised much of Apulia (modern Puglia) in south-eastern Italy. In 706 BC, the Spartans founded the city of Tarentum (modern Tarento), one of the most prominent cities in the region. With their easy access to the Mediterranean, fertile hinterland, and quality craftsmanship, many of these colonies flourished.

This figurine may have been manufactured in Tarentum, as the motif of the winged Victory was a popular one in this area. Beyond this, however, its provenance is largely unknown, but it is unlikely to have come into the Museum’s collections from John Garstang’s excavations, as is the case for many of the Egyptian objects in the collection.

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Wing and wing-tip from C.531

The figurine is in good overall condition. The left wing was reattached by restorers, but the tip was not. The right wing is detached from the object, and the tip is missing. Based on the marks of repair at the figurine’s neck, the head was likely also restored or reattached. The base also shows signs of restoration. The base of the statue is hollow, and there is a circular whole at the back of the object, between the wings. The figure’s clothing also has residues of green, red, yellow, and white pigment. Coloured glazes or slips were used to decorate terracotta in this way until the 5th century BC.

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