Comparative Guts

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Grotesque terracotta figurine

3rd century BCE–3rd century CE (?)
© 2023, Benaki Museum, Athens. Benaki Museum inv. No 12793

This Hellenistic terracotta, part of the Benaki Museum collection in Athens, depicts with hyper-realistic traits an old, and/or ‘disabled’ man with a protruding pot belly, achieving a grotesque effect and signalling a pathology while offering a comical symmetry to the bold head, if larger and rounder. The purpose of ‘grotesque figurines’, found in large number around the Mediterranean and usually dated in a wide range (3rd century BCE–3rd century CE) was probably decorative and domestic. In these figurines the belly is often conspicuous as an inflatable part, as space holding content; it typifies old age but also, as in this case, the deformity and pathology of the underlying internal part.