Muse (Terpsichore)

Greek, late 4th to mid 2nd centuries BC
Marble, perhaps Parian
2002.31.1
Carlos Collection of Ancient Art
Scale and style of this extraordinarily sensitive figure recall decorative sculpture found in grander private homes in Hellenistic Greece, such as the Houses of the Five Statues or of the Diadoumenos on Delos. Her identity is not certain. She shares much with goddesses such as Aphrodite (love), Artemis (hunting) and Themis (established law). However, an attribute made perhaps either of stone or of wood (or ivory) and now missing was once dowelled into the top of the tree-stump at her left. This is more likely to have been a lyre, identifying the figure as one of the nine Muses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory): Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance (her name means "she who rejoices in the dance"). She is certainly depicted on a gemstone exhibited in the main gallery. The softness of the facial features, whose elements flow into one another ("sfumato") was achieved by carving the head separately, to guarantee the very finest marble. This may also at times have enabled division of the carving between master craftsman (head) and workshop (body), but here, the delicacy of the right foot and the intimacy of the whole suggest otherwise.