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Coroplasts from Tanagra (part 3)

The movements of the Tanagryanoks are beautiful and measured, their gestures are restrained, and the expression on their faces is noble. Here is a woman, raising her raincoat, wants to cross the street. As if feeling admiring glances on herself, she bashfully lowered her eyes. An ardently akimbo and beaming with a radiant smile, a young saleswoman of roses stands at the crossroads with a basket.

I love joy, bliss, love youth and the sun;
My lot is to be in the sunshine and the beauty of love!

So Sappho writes about himself. Nameless coroplasts, who created captivating images of young Tanagriankas, were also in love with beauty.

However, do not let these miniature figures seem too simple and unpretentious. Given the resemblance to European porcelain plastic, it would be wrong to think that Tanagryanki were created only to decorate the home and represented genre scenes. Like any phenomenon of art, Greek terracotta, in addition to the superficial, first meaning, have a deeper content associated with the worldview of the ancients, their pagan cults. Placing the figures in the graves, bringing them as gifts to the temples, the ancients invested in them an exalted meaning.

Often the statuettes constituted extensive cycles, the reconstruction of which in their entirety is not allowed by the fragmentation that occurred as a result of the unscientific excavation in Tanagra. Figures that are now in different collections had a close relationship. Especially popular were the plots related to the cult of the gods Dionysus and Demeter. In mysterious rites in their honor, accessible to man only after special initiation, sorrow and fun, sublime and comic, alternating notions of immortality and transience of life alternated. So, a girl squatting down plays a ball – it is also a symbol of carefree youth, and the goddess Kora herself, the daughter of Demeter, selflessly surrendering herself to a joyful pursuit, not suspecting that in a moment she would be kidnapped by the terrible lord Aida. “Two friends” froze in an embrace – these are Demeter and Kora, united after a long separation, “Girl with a bunch”, “Girl with a mask” – companions of Dionysus. Their attributes symbolize the eternal renewal of life or another, other world. After all, earthly existence was conceived only by its short interlude.

Much less often than women in coroplasty can be found male characters. Here is Dionysus himself, or a cheerful hawker with a cup in his hands. This work dates back to the early development of Tanagra art – the beginning of the 5th century BC, while most terracottas are in museum collections of the Hellenistic era (4th – 3rd centuries BC). A young man in a road coat, street actors, funny companions of the god Dionysus, no, no, yes, and they will meet among hundreds of graceful Tanagryanoks. Here is the winged Eros, like a seasoned horseman, saddled a goat and rules the obstinate animals. Maybe he appears here as a participant in a humorous contest, similar to the one described in the epigram by the poet:

Boys, red goat bridle, bridled, and muzzle
They put it on his hairy mouth
Near the temple, a game of equestrian competition – to
God himself saw how they amuse themselves with this game!

The plastic beauty of ancient statuettes was combined with delicate coloring. However, unstable water-based paints for 2300 years have largely disappeared. And only on the rare figures found inside the vessel or in a stone tomb, the colors remained: yellow, pink, brown, blue … Enlightened, soft humanity, humor, subtle spirituality of images, exquisite rhythms, eye-caressing coloring – these are the advantages of terracotta from Tanagra. Paying tribute to the skill of nameless sculptors, the great Auguste Rodin noted in their figurines “femininity, a modest grace of a draped body that conceals the soul, nuances that cannot be expressed in simple words …”.

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