This vase is one of a collection of Greek artifacts held by the CU Art Museum.
Gift to CU Classics Department
Transferred to CU Museum of Natural History
Transferred to CU Art Museum (2006)
Height: 15.2 cm
Width: 17.8 cm
Depth: 10.8 cm
Date: c. 600 B.C.E.
Description: Terracotta figurine of a harpy, with a winged bird body and the torso and head of a human woman. Wings and tail outstretched. Spool-like base extends from bottom. White and cream color.
Additional photos of this object show details of face, wings, and tail.
This small terracotta statuette dates to around 600 B.C.E., that is, the Archaic period of Greek history (1). It depicts a harpy, a mythological figure that is here depicted as a combination of the winged body of a bird with the torso and head of a human woman. The female face has features characteristic of the Daedalic style (2), which developed on the island of Crete and heavily influenced Archaic Greek sculpture (3). Its style suggests a possible origin in Crete or the Peloponnese, the part of mainland Greece south of the isthmus of Corinth.
The figurine shows the body of a bird. Two roughly formed wings extend from either side, curving toward the back. A short tail extends straight out from the back. A female head sits atop a long neck extending straight up from the front of the body. The face is shallow and, although badly weathered, traces of a serene Archaic smile can be seen, framed by wig-like hair.
Terracotta figurines in ancient Greece often functioned as offerings to gods and goddesses at temples and sanctuaries, but they served other functions, including as toys (4). Similar kinds of figures could function as appendages to a variety of vessels: bronze siren attachments (5), for example, could decorate Orientalizing tripod cauldrons, which appeared in Greece at the turn of the 8th century B.C.E. (6).
- Musée du Louvre, Catalogue raisonné des figurines et reliefs en terre-cuite grecs, étrusques et romains (Paris : Éditions des Musées nationaux, 1954): Pl. 17 fig. B133.
- Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway, The Archaic Style in Greek Sculpture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977): 19-20.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art of the Aegean Islands (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979): 130.
- R. A. Higgins, Greek Terracottas (London: Methuen & Co ,1967): 1.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art of the Aegean Islands (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979): 175.
- Athanasia Yalouris, Olympia the Museum and the Sanctuary (Athens: Ekdotike Athenon, 1993): 57.
- Chara Tzavella-Evjen, Greek and Roman Vases and Statuettes from the University of Colorado Collection (Athens: Archaiologikon Deltion, 1973): 192-197.