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Tarentine Terracotta Antefix with head of Aphrodite
New York | Sculpture
Date:  4th Century BC
Culture:  South Italian
Category:  Sculpture
Medium:  Terracotta
Dimension: H: 19 cm
Price: $30,000.00
Provenance: Formerly in a Swiss private collection, probably A. Moretti
Serial No: 26068

By the beginning of the 4th century B.C. Tarantine antefixes previously decorated with frightful images of the Gorgon lost their monstrous quality and took on natural features of feminine beauty that led to the depiction of female divinities. This antefix is an example of the new type and shows the head of the goddess Aphrodite in three-quarter view and turned slightly to the left. The soft contours of her expressive face are well-delineated. Wavy locks of hair, large eyes with incised pupils and irises, and slightly parted, full lips add a sense of life to the image. Traces of the himation the goddess wears can be seen on her shoulders. The relatively small size of the antefix is characteristic of the Tarantine series and suggests that they were used on private buildings or for funerary or cult purposes.

The woman’s dignified aura and sensuous gaze have long been recognized as belonging to the goddess Aphrodite, and similar Tarantine antefixes are accompanied by a small Eros, the son and almost constant companion of the goddess. The pendant of a lunar crescent on her necklace supports this identification since the symbol is connected with Aphrodite Urania, Aphrodite of the Heavens. The lunar crescent, which is often associated with women, is likely of Syrian origin and is capable of warding off evil. The earrings of the goddess are formed by a small cross and an inverted pyramid that are of a recognizable type widespread in antiquity and especially popular in Taranto during the 4th century B.C.