A Greek Terracotta Statuette of a Young Man


A Greek terracotta statuette of a nude young man poised in a contrapposto stance, with slightly tilted shoulders and hips that pervade the figure with a natural, lifelike quality. He stands on a short pedestal and rests his right hand on the bent leg, whilst his left arm is raised to the waist, possibly holding an object or the long drape laid upon his shoulders. His facial features, hair, and anatomical details have been carefully crafted, with details brought to life through paint. The original pink pigment is still visible on the figure’s body and face, while traces of the original yellow and blue pigmentation can be discerned on the young man’s long drape. The reverse remains unworked and presents a large rectangular opening, cut in antiquity to allow moisture in the clay to escape during the firing process.

Date: Circa 4th-3rd Century BC
Condition: Excellent condition; some signs of ageing and earthy encrustations on the surface.


Terracotta figurines are the most common sculpture type in Greek art. Often fairly crude in their rendering, they were clearly designed for use across all social strata, and provide insight into the everyday lives of Greeks. This statuette is a wonderful example of the polychromy that defined Greek sculpture. Traces of paint left on an artefact are usually too small to be detected by the human eye, and so require technology to be discerned. In this instance, however, the polychromy is clear, making the statuette an excellent and rare insight into how Greek statuary was intended to look, and would have appeared in its original form.

The term ‘contrapposto’ refers to a sculptural scheme originated in Ancient Greece around the 5th century BC, in which the human figure is poised so that the weight rests on one leg, whilst the other is free and bent at the knee. The weight shift and hip tilt suggest relaxation, making the sculpture more dynamic through a subtle movement that denotes life. Such scheme presents an evolution from the Kouros (κοῦρος) sculptures, figures rendered in a static advancing stance, with the weight evenly distributed on both legs.

To find out more about polychromy in ancient art, please refer to our relevant article: Polychromy in Ancient Greece.

Weight 257.6 g
Dimensions L 6.4 x W 3.4 x H 23.5 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


You may also like…