Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

The arms of this mold-made statuette are cut off above the elbow, and the legs at mid-thigh. These are not accidental losses, but features integral to the object’s design. Young women may have dedicated such statuettes as votive objects on reaching puberty. The absence of limbs focuses attention on the well-developed trunk of the body itself, where the changing shape of an adolescent woman is most obviously manifested. Placed in a tomb or depicted on a grave stele like that of Melisto to the right, the “doll” emphasized a girl’s premature death and perhaps expressed the hope of her family that she would achieve full womanhood in the afterlife.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
"Doll" with Truncated Limbs
Work Type
c. 450 BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Attica
Classical period, Early
Persistent Link
Level 3, Room 3410, South Arcade
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Physical Descriptions
White-silpped terracotta with traces of paint
15.1 x 6 x 5.4 cm (5 15/16 x 2 3/8 x 2 1/8 in.)
Frederick M. Watkins, (by 1953), gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1956.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Frederick M. Watkins
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Complete figurine, in excellent condition.

A standing woman, nude, with truncated arms that end above the elbows, and legs that end above the knees. Her hair is parted at the middle, framing the face with well-formed waves. Beyond that it is covered by a long cap, a sakkos, that extends far behind her back. The sakkos is brimmed with a stephane (or metal band) and tied with a ribbon that zig-zags along the cap, and trails the stephane to the proper left ear, falling behind it and disappearing near the middle of the neck. She faces forward with unreadable, Classical features: short, triangular forehead; small, deep-set eyes; straight nose; closed mouth. A rounded chin meets the thick, deep neck at a 90-degree angle. Large shoulders, especially the right; there seems to have been some effort to soften the left shoulder by hand. Small, pointed breasts. Muscular abdomen.

Would have been painted originally. White ground extant all over exterior. Dark red pigment remains on hair; black used for the ribbon and a diagonal band across the figure’s back.

Hollow body with solid head. Mold-made in two bivalve molds, likely terracotta. Some handmade additions (hair, perhaps breasts). Top heavy. Some attempt to conceal seams on exterior; reinforced along the interior, between the legs, rather than on the sides. Open bottom, perhaps shaped and reinforced to hold two fingers.
The straight torso with distinct abdominal muscles, and the athletic back and buttocks, may suggest that the mold for the body was originally used for a male figure and only later adapted (with the addition of breasts and flattening of the pubic triangle) for use on a female figure. If this was done purposely, rather than because of convenience or expediency, it could lend extra meaning to this idealized female “doll.”

The bottom and interior of the figurine, further, seem to have been shaped and reinforced to hold two fingers. There is a proper rim, and the interior has been smoothed and covered with white ground. If balanced on two fingers, the handler’s arm would “complete” the body of the figurine, and would function both as a background and a source of proportion for the gendered and classed messages embodied within it.
Publication History

The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1973)

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. 13, no. 28.

Exhibition History

Dialogue with Antiquity: The Curatorial Achievement of George M.A. Hanfmann, Fogg Art Museum, 05/07/1982 - 06/26/1982

The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/31/1973 - 03/14/1973

32Q: 3410 South Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

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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