• latw-56-1
    Architectural terracotta: head of a bearded man. (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)

Architectural terracotta: head of a bearded man

Middle of 6th c BC, Lydian
Manisa, Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum, 1673
Museum Inventory No.
Sardis or Museum Inv. No.
Object Type
Architectural Terracotta
Architectural Terracotta Type
B-Grid Coordinates
W251.7 / S377.5 *87.00
Terracotta fragment of a sima or geison, molded and painted with cream, dark sepia, and red-brown slips, showing head and shoulders of a bearded man, facing right. Background, flesh parts, and perhaps entire form are covered with cream slip, and over it dark sepia and red-brown slips are applied. Shoulder-length hair has a series of horizontal convex ripples rendered in relief and dark slip. The beard, rendered only in slip, is painted on upper cheeks and upper chin; there is no mustache. The garment is red over the chest, with a dark-on-light meander border at the neck and a “sleeve pattern which cannot be reconstructed with certainty. It seems to have been made up of red meanders and white diamonds framed in black” (Ramage 1978, 16). Height 0.08 m, width 0.05 m.
Recovered from an extramural occupation quarter of Sardis (excavation sector PN). The fragment (called by G. M. A. Hanfmann “portrait of a Lydian as a Young Man”) belongs to a sima or geison, perhaps showing a rider or two confronted riders. At some time in antiquity, probably within a century after the terracotta was made, the head was carefully cut away from its background, perhaps after the tile had been accidentally broken. Near the findspot of No. 56 was recovered an architectural terracotta fragment from another design type, preserving the form of an immature bird (partridge or francolin), probably from a panel showing a file of mature and immature birds of that kind (see No. 60), which had received the same treatment (Ramage 1978, 18 no. 10, fig. 41; Sardis Expedition inventory no. T62.042). Bearded head and bird had been specially prepared and saved for secondary use, perhaps as talismans or toys. The use of cream slip for male flesh parts is common in East Greek architectural terracottas, and so need not reflect the avoidance of sunshine by Lydian men alleged in ancient literature (Clearchus, reported by Athenaeus 12.515e; see Greenewalt 1971, 37 n. 15). The hairstyle is the Etagenperüke convention. Clean upper lip, beard cut high on cheeks, leaving lower jaw uncovered, and earrings also appear on bearded male faces in Aeolic orientalizing amphorae from Myrina and Pitane (see Iren 2003, 4-75 nos. 81, 82, cover and pl. 19). In the “exhibitionist” plastic vase from Sardis, the beard appears lower on chin and cheek, and a moustache may be present (although if so it does not contact the beard); see Greenewalt 1971, 31, 38 (what were identified as moustache tips might be upper-lip tips). The wearing of earrings by Lydian men was evidently commonplace in the fifth century BC, according to Xenophon, Anabasis 3.1.31.
See Also
Ateşlier, “Architectural Terracottas”; Greenewalt, “Horsemanship”.
Ramage 1978, 15-16, no. 2, frontispiece and fig. 33; with older bibliography.