Evolution of Greek Terracotta Art

The ancient Greeks strived to create art which they could use to honour the gods of Olympus. This spiritual pursuit led the ordinary people of Ancient Greece to develop a highly-evolved culture of terracotta art, examples of which you can buy from Artemission.

Honouring the Olympic pantheon

The people of Ancient Greece believed that the world was created by a pantheon of gods, who lived at the top of Mount Olympus in Athens. These mythical figures, such as Zeus, Athena, Hera, Hades and Aphrodite, weren’t seen as legends to be ignored. The Ancient Greeks believed that these beings had real power over their lives, and that they needed to be placated to ensure prosperity.

This belief spurred the citizens of city-states such as Athens, Sparta and Corinth to build monuments to celebrate the Olympic pantheon, the most famous of which is the Parthenon in Athens. They housed these monuments with awe-inspiring sculptures and statues of their all-powerful deities, which were painstakingly hewn out of their land’s abundant supply of natural marble.

Development of terracotta art

Ordinary citizens couldn’t afford to create vast marble statues to honour the Olympic pantheon. Instead, they used clay sculpting techniques, similar to a potter’s, to create terracotta figurines. The Greeks developed their own version of the ‘moulding’ technique, where they would pour clay or plaster into a mould, and fire it in a kiln to create intricate terracotta figurines.

Over the course of the Classical and Hellenistic periods of Ancient Greece, terracotta figurines became a commonplace feature in homes across the land. These pieces could be produced at a low cost, but Terracotta sculpting techniques were basic throughout the Classical era, ensuring that they were originally only used for religious purposes.

By the onset of the Hellenistic era, sculptors discovered how to vary the shade of terracotta figurines. Where before they were restricted to primary hues such as red, yellow and black, now they could imbibe their terracotta creations with more exotic shades such as mauve, green and orange. This allowed ordinary Greeks to start using terracotta figurines for decorative purposes. This discovery transformed the technique into one of the most frequently utilised modes of artistic and religious expression in Ancient Greece.

Ancient Greece may not have survived, but its terracotta figurines did. Over time, archaeological expeditions have unearthed a wide selection of fantastically preserved Ancient Greek terracotta art. If you want to use these amazing pieces to decorate your home, as the Greeks once did, you can buy a range of Greek terracotta art from the Greek Antiquities section of artemission.com.


Artemission.com (Atticart Ltd.) is the leading antiquities gallery online. Starting the very first internet site dealing with authentic antiquities, Artemission specialise in ancient art from Egypt, the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia, as well as Islamic Art and Ancient Coins.

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