National Geographic : 1944 Mar
Potter Making Clay Figurines MAKING figurines was a flourish ing branch of the potter's art from earliest times, and although, generally speaking, the best known are from Tanagra in the fourth and third centuries, there were other centers of manufacture as well. A few years ago, at Corinth, was discovered a potters' quarter that yielded an amazing quantity and vari ety of figurines of all periods, from the seventh century down through the fourth. Many were hand-made. Many, also, were turned out in quantities from baked clay molds. Figures of horses and dogs were particularly abundant. Some horses have riders, and some of the riders are unmistakably meant to represent monkeys. Grotesque heads are found, as well as the delicately modeled features of female deities or priestesses. Plaques in relief might represent a warrior, with sword, helmet, and shield, and occasionally small circular votive shields were decorated with the fig ure of a warrior leaping down from his horse. In this Corinthian factory, molds were found for the bodies and legs and arms of jointed dolls, and the actual impresses from the molds which also came to light fitted them exactly, if one made allowance for the shrinkage of the clay in the baking process. The heads of these dolls were molded separately and then at tached to the torsos. Small models were made of house hold furniture, such as tables, chairs, and couches. Models of boats, mir rors, tools, roof tiles, articles of food, and even miniature pots were turned out. These probably delighted the children of that time. Carts with curi- ously constructed, primitive wheels were found, pierced with holes in which small pieces of wood could be inserted to suspend the axle and to form the body of the cart. These may have been woven in grass to imitate a wicker-basket construction in the real ones. Even a covered buggy came to light, with two women seated inside it. One had her himation drawn over her head, completely veiling her fea tures; the other, seated beside her, wore no headdress. Perhaps they represented a lady and her slave. Near the buggy were found two clay horses yoked together and of the proper scale to belong to the group. The establishment was a modest one, simply built. On one side of a small courtyard four plain rectan gular stone piers apparently sup ported a projecting roof which shel tered a series of shelves on which the objects could be stored. Large quantities of them were found piled up at that spot. Clay was brought from a deep ra vine just below the city wall. The old potter in our picture is pressing clay into a mold. Immedi ately alongside his hands is the mold for the dolls' bodies, some of which are arranged on the edge of the bench. A boy is carrying a tray of finished figurines which have come out of the kiln, and a few more may be seen on the table in the courtyard. Many of the figurines were painted, at least in part, in reds, reddish brown, and black. Pink and yellow were also used. Occasionally a faint trace of blue appears, but this color was used sparingly, at least at Cor inth, and in any case usually fails to resist weather as well as the earth and iron oxide colors.