A Greek Terracotta Pinax Fragment, ca 5th century BCE


$9,500 USD


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This fragment is part of a pinax; terracotta tablets with brightly painted sculptural scenes in relief.  This example shows the abduction of Kore (Persephone) by Hades, god of the Underworld.  Here, Hades, dressed in a short dotted mantle, lifts Persephone who is dressed in a chiton. The missing portion of the tablet would have shown Hades grasping Persephone who throws up her arms in a gesture of alarm, being taken in a chariot pulled by two winged horses.  The complete chariot is visible together with the hind quarters of the two horses who, facing right, are about to leap into the air, taking flight.  Traces of original pink, red, white and blue polychrome remains. 

This scene is related to the myth and cult of Persephone (Kore) and other deities and were produced in Locri during the first half of the fifth century BCE. They were offered as votive dedications at the Locrian sanctuary of Persephone in the Mannella district and represent one of the most significant categories of objects from Magna Graecia, both as documents of religious practice and as works of art.

The abduction of Kore by Hades, ruler of the underworld, is the most common scene represented on Locrian pinnaces. Kore and her mother, Demeter, presided over the fertility of nature, making agriculture possible. After Kore’s abduction, this fertility could not longer be sustained, threatening all living things on earth. Demeter remedied this dire situation by arranging that her daughter (who, as the wife of Hades, assumed the name Persephone) return to earth periodically thus initiating seasonal regeneration. With Persephone’s regular visits between the upper and lower worlds, the myth portrays the seasons as a renewing cycle alternating between life and death.

These pinakes were wedding dedications, portraying an ideal representation of a bride and bridegroom depicted according to the iconographical model of the divine bride (Persephone) and bridegroom (Hades), whose marriage was preceded by an abduction. It has been argued that such dedications were made by girls who were getting married and seeking Persephone's protection. Therefore, not only was the wedding of Persephone and Hades an important part of the Locrian cult and myth but also Persephone was associated  with marriage fulfilling the role of protectress of marriage and weddings.

Bibliography:  Sourvinou-Inwood, C. (1973). THE YOUNG ABDUCTOR OF THE LOCRIAN PINAKES. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, (20), 12-21. 

Sourvinou-Inwood, C. (1978). Persephone and Aphrodite at Locri: A Model for Personality Definitions in Greek Religion. The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 98, 101-121.

Michael J. Bennett, Aaron J. Paul, Mario Iozzo, Bruce M. White, Cleveland Museum of Art, Tampa Museum of Art. (2002) Magna Graecia: Greek Art from South Italy and Sicily (Hudson Hills)

Condition:  Incomplete as shown, professionally rejoined from four large fragments and stabilized with some cosmetic filling.  Presented on museum quality custom mount.

Dimensions:  Height: 16 cm (6.3 inches), Width: 24 cm (9.4 inches)

Provenance:  Ex. private collection of van der Aa, Belgium, acquired in the 1960's-1970's.