The Three Graces
Roman copy of a Greek work of the second century b.c.
Sixteen full-size Roman marble copies of this famous group are known today. The Museum’s acquisition is one of the finest and best preserved examples. The Three Graces—Aglaia (Beauty), Euphrosyne (Mirth), and Thalia (Abundance)—the handmaidens of Aphrodite, are represented as nude young girls standing with their hands on each other’s shoulders, the center figure facing the other two. Large, drapery-covered water jars frame the group. The graceful friezelike pose is one of the most famous compositions known from antiquity. Where and by whom the scene was invented is not known, but it was most likely developed in the late Hellenistic period, probably in the second century B.C. It soon became a canonic formula for representing the Graces, appearing in every medium and on every kind of object from mirrors to sarcophagi, and its popularity continued into the Renaissance. The representation derives from the famous classical statue of Aphrodite by Praxiteles at Knidos, in western Asia Minor. Venerable cults devoted to the Three Graces existed throughout the ancient Graeco-Roman world. This sculpture may have originally been placed in a garden or a public building such as a bath. It can be dated to the Hadrianic or early Antonine period by the ovoid form of the base and the molding on its front.
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