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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Seated Girl Tying Sandal
Work Type
statuette, sculpture
4th-1st century BCE
Hellenistic period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

9.5 × 10 cm (3 3/4 × 3 15/16 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Ionides Collection, London, (by 1913). Miss Bettina Kahnweiler, Cambridge MA, (by 1935), gift; to the Fogg Museum of Art.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Miss Bettina J. Kahnweiler
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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This terracotta figurine of a seated girl tying her sandal shows an interest in portraying a wide variety of day-to-day scenes of Hellenistic art (4th to 1st centuries BCE) rather than the explicitly religious scenes so popular in the Classical period. They are often referred to as "genre" scenes. Here, the artists were concerned with more relaxed poses, elaborate drapery, and placing the female figure in interesting and unique positions that showcase the movement and twisting of the human body. Many of these figurines have been found in cemeteries and are thought to have been accompaniments for the dead, though some might have been kept in the home as personal possessions as well as dedicated at sanctuaries.

Such figurines give attention to the world of mortals while often still referencing traditional imagery and subject matter. Here, for example, the depicted girl’s actions, though seated, are that of the longstanding, popular image of a woman (or goddess) adjusting her sandals (often called the “sandalbinder” by scholars, though she may be adjusting, removing, or tying them on). For example, a famous relief on the parapet of the Temple of Athena Nike at the Athenian Acropolis (dating to c. 410 BCE) shows the goddess Nike both bending over and lifting her leg to reach her sandal. Many subsequent variations of the pose in Hellenistic art show the goddess Aphrodite tying her sandals; these are often associated with bathing due to Aphrodite's nudity in the depictions. Thus, this every-day image of a girl may tap into the allure or power of Aphrodite, offering a clue as why it may have attracted an ancient owner.

This figurine bears traces of Prussian blue pigment (first synthesized in the 18th century) along with pigments consistent with use in antiquity (red and yellow ochres): it may be evidence of a modern (18th or 19th century) touch-up rather than a sign that it is a modern. Nevertheless, some questions about the sculptural form (such as the open form of the stool and the lack of known parallels for this specific figurine type) leave open the possibility that this object is a modern forgery. The late nineteenth century saw an uptick in the production of forged Hellenistic-style terracotta figurines, as a result of a collecting craze set off in the 1870s by the discovery of Hellenistic terracotta figurines in the cemeteries of ancient Tangara (modern Schimatari, Greece) as well as at sites in Asia Minor (such as Smyrna and Myrina, in modern western Türkiye).

Publication History

  • Laura Mau, "A Pigment Analysis of Greek Hellenistic Tanagra Figurines" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 1991), Unpublished, pp. 1-7 passim

Exhibition History

Verification Level

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at