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A marble relief portrays a young girl with a doll, a bird, and a small dog within an architectural pediment.

A white, marble relief portrays a young girl within an architectural pediment supported by a square column on each side. The girl is holding a doll in her raised left hand and a bird in her lowered right hand. She looks left with her head in profile, gazing down at a small curly-haired dog that jumps up on her towards the bird. She wears a gown with one end draped over her raised left arm. The toes of her right foot peek out from under her garment. She is smiling and the top of her head touches the bottom of the pediment.

Gallery Text

Melisto, Daughter of Ktesikrates, from the Demos of Potamos

Melisto was a child who lived in Potamos, a district southeast of Athens, in the mid-fourth century BCE. If you passed by the cemetery where she was buried, you would have seen Melisto depicted with her dog, a bird, and a votive female figurine on this once-painted grave marker. You would have also seen monuments for her family members, some of whom would have been named in inscriptions. Now, however, we know only her father’s name: Ktesikrates. Relatives tending to the family plot probably looked at it with pride and sorrow: they saw a monument of family history, which included Melisto, as well as their loss.

What was her life like? A wealthy girl of about seven years old, she probably played with toys, her dog, and other children and helped her mother and other women in her household make textiles. Her family must have felt her loss deeply.

Caring for the Dead at the Harvard Art Museums

Identification and Creation

Object Number
1961.86
Title
Grave Stele of a Young Girl, "Melisto"
Classification
Sculpture
Work Type
sculpture
Date
c. 340 BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Attica
Period
Classical period, Late
Culture
Greek
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/288045

Location

Location
Level 3, Room 3410, South Arcade
View this object's location on our interactive map

Physical Descriptions

Medium
Marble, probably from Sounion
Technique
Carved
Dimensions
95.5 cm h x 49.2 cm w x 10 cm d (37 5/8 x 19 3/8 x 3 15/16 in.)

Provenance

Recorded Ownership History
[Ars Antiqua, Lucerne, 29 April 1961], sold; to Fogg Art Museum, 1961.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing and Gifts for Special Uses Funds in memory of Katherine Brewster Taylor, as a tribute to her many years at the Fogg Museum
Accession Year
1961
Object Number
1961.86
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Permissions

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Descriptions

Published Catalogue Text: Stone Sculptures: The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums , written 1990
24

Grave Stele

An inscription written on a narrow architrave below the pediment reads:
MEΛIΣTΩ KTHΣIKPATOYΣ ΠOTAMIOY
Melisto, daughter of Ktesikrates, from the Demos of Potamos.

The stele is good-to-average Pentelic marble [probably not: identified as marble from Sounion by istope analysis - article in file]. The basic condition is also good, but "all the surfaces have been more or less recut" (J. Frel, letter of 15 June, 1973). There are faint traces of painted egg and dart motif above the inscription.

Melisto, daughter of Ktesikrates, holds a doll in her left hand and a bird in the right, and looks down toward the furry little dog springing up at her from the right. She wears a simple girt chiton, like a nightgown.

The deme of Potamos, whence Melisto came, was on the Attic coast, north of Sounion, south of Brauron, where statues of girls similar to this representation in relief were found in the sanctuary of Artemis. The head of a statue in this style and tradition is represented by no. 27 in this catalog [1922.72]. Melisto's somewhat frizzy hair and her smile are paralleled best by the head of a little girl ("bear") in a Swiss private collection (Chamay, 1975, no. 275).

Cornelius Vermeule and Amy Brauer

Publication History

  • Ars Antiqua, Auktion III, auct. cat. (Lucerne, Switzerland, 1961), p. 13, no. 22, pl. 9
  • Fogg Art Museum Acquisitions, 1959-1962, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, 1963), plate, p. 121
  • John Griffiths Pedley, "An Attic Grave Stele in the Fogg Art Museum", Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1965), pp. 259-276
  • John Griffiths Pedley and Elaine Gazda, Greek Sculpture in Transition, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI, 1981), no. 1
  • David Gordon Mitten and Amy Brauer, Dialogue with Antiquity, The Curatorial Achievement of George M. A. Hanfmann, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1982), p. 14, no. 42.
  • Hilde Rühfel, Das Kind in der griechischen Kunst, Verlag Philipp von Zabern (Mainz, Germany, 1984), pp. 176-177, fig. 73
  • Cornelius C. Vermeule III and Amy Brauer, Stone Sculptures: The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 40, no. 24
  • Joan Reilly, "Naked and Limbless: Learning about the feminine body in ancient Athens", Naked Truths: Women, Sexuality and Gender in Classical Art and Archaeology, ed. Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow and Claire L. Lyons, Routledge (London, 1997), 154-173, pp. 157-158, fig 36
  • Johannes Bergemann, Demos und Thanatos: Untersuchungen zum Wertsystem der Polis im Spiegel der attischen Grabreliefs des 4. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. und zur Funktion der gleichzeitigen Grabbauten, Biering & Brinkmann (Munich, 1997), p. 176, no. 676
  • John Bodel and Stephen Tracy, Greek and Latin Inscriptions in the USA: A checklist, American Academy in Rome (New York, 1997), p. 48.
  • Jenifer Neils and John Oakley, Coming of Age in Ancient Greece: Images of Childhood from the Classical Past, Yale University Press (U.S.) (New Haven, 2003), pp. xviii, 307, cat. 124
  • Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/Handbook (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2008)
  • Kenneth Kitchell, "Penelope's Geese: Pets of the Ancient Greeks", Expedition: the Magazine of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA, 2011), vol. 53, no. 3, 14-23, p. 20, ill. 15
  • [Reproduction Only], Persephone, Vol. 11, No. 1, Spring 2011, p. 31.
  • Marion Meyer, "Was ist ein Mädchen? Der Blick auf die weibliche Jugend im klassischen Athen", Mädchen im Altertum, ed. Susanne Moraw and Anna Kieburg, Waxmann (Münster, 2014), 221-236, p. 228, fig. 7.
  • Elena Walter-Karydi, Die Athener und ihre Gräber (1000 – 300 v. Chr.), De Gruyter (Berlin, 2015), p. 291, fig. 177
  • Katia Margariti, "The Sombre Smile of Melisto: Grave-Reliefs of Prepubescent Girls in Classical Athens", Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Sydney (Sydney, 2018), vol. 31, pp. 27-45, p. 28; cat. no. 44, pl. 7.1
  • Katia Margariti, "The Sombre Smile of Melisto: Grave-Reliefs of Prepubescent Girls in Classical Athens", Mediterranean Archaeology (Sydney, Australia, 2018), 31, pp. 27-45, pp. 28, 44, pl. 7 fig. 1
  • Jenifer Neils and Dylan K. Rogers, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Athens, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 2021), pp. 205-206, fig. 14.2

Exhibition History

  • Greek Sculpture in Transition, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, 01/29/1981 - 04/19/1981
  • Dialogue with Antiquity: The Curatorial Achievement of George M.A. Hanfmann, Fogg Art Museum, 05/07/1982 - 06/26/1982
  • Coming of Age in Ancient Greece: Images of Childhood from the Classical Past, Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, 08/23/2003 - 12/14/2003; Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, New York, 01/20/2004 - 04/15/2004; Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, 05/21/2004 - 08/01/2004; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 09/14/2004 - 12/16/2004
  • Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/22/2007 - 01/20/2008
  • Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • 32Q: 3410 South Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

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Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu