Statuette of a Dancer Playing the Lyre
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Greek, Sicily or South Italy, 200 - 100 B.C.
Terracotta and pigment
7 7/8 in.

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Twisting her body into an ecstatic pose, a woman dances while playing a lyre. Terracotta statuettes like this one were very popular in the Hellenistic period. Made in sites throughout the Greek world, the majority of these statuettes represent women. In the 100s B.C., the poses of the statuettes become livelier than previously, and dancing figures with swirling drapery became more common among the statuettes produced in the Greek colonies on the island of Sicily.

These statuettes were formed in two-piece molds and mass-produced. A thin sheet of wet clay was pressed into each side of the mold. When the clay had dried, it was fired in a kiln, and finally the statuette was painted. The large hole in the back of the figure is a vent, allowing air circulation so that the figure would not explode when fired. The round vent seen here is typical of terracottas made in Sicily.