I found this charming pair of seated musician figures made from terracotta in a shop in Hythe, Kent and immediately fell in love with their quirky, inquisitive facial expressions!
Terracotta literally means ‘baked earth’ and the availability of this cheap and versatile material made it a medium of choice, especially in Folk Art, since pre-historic times across all continents from the Americas to China, India and Africa.
The Chinese were using terracotta as early as 10,000 BC with arguably one of the most famous examples, the Terracotta Army dating from 246 BC. A wealth of Minoan and Etruscan terracotta artefacts have been unearthed and it featured widely in early Greek and Roman architecture.
From the fall of the Roman Empire its use declined until the Renaissance revival when notable artists including Donatello and Bernini brought it back into fashion. In more modern times, it found favour as an ideal medium for fired decorative tiles to adorn the exterior of Victorian buildings and it was given a seal of approval by the Arts & Crafts movement for its hand-crafted properties.
Unfortunately with no clues as to where they came from it is difficult to know if my musicians are Indian or South American but I’m fairly sure they are mass-produced tourist pieces either imported or bought overseas, as is this friendly terracotta elephant which has adorned my window sill for many years!