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Reflection on scholarly talk: Girls Being Girls: Playing with Figurines in the Field and the Museum

Assignment for Art history: Arts of South Asia. Photo and presentation slide credited to Dr.Frances Gallart Marqué ©®. Essay by me.


This reflection essay covers the scholarly talk: Girls Being Girls: Playing with Figurines in the Field and the Museum. The lecture was given by archeologist, Dr. Frances Gallart Marqué. She is accredited for studying Biology and Anthropology at the University of Puerto Rico as well as obtaining a Ph.D. from Cornell University in fields like Art History, Visual Studies, and Archaeology.

Dr. Frances Gallart Marqué.

Equally important, she worked for the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis from the time of 2003 and conducted fieldwork in countries like Italy and Jordan. In addition, this lecture focuses on a collection of ancient figurines that were conducted by her in the study and directed by Professor of Archaeology, George Hoffman. 

Marques expressed that in the beginning, she was clueless and frustrated about the approach of studying these terracottas, but gradually learned the process of studying these figurines from holding & touching. She explained that being able to identify its texture, and humidity is important to its characteristics. 

In detail, she emphasized that the sense of touch is important for one to better identify & understand the process as this approach is a major part of her fieldwork.

Photo credit: Dr. Frances Gallart Marqué.
Photo credit: Dr. Frances Gallart Marqué.

Furthermore, the purpose of the given scholarly talk is more so about the historical context of the Terracotta figurines. How figurines back then, were popular in demand and sold at antiquity markets back in the 19th century. More so than before that, a vast inventory of terracotta figurines was looted from tombs and other sites when they did systematic explorations (colonialization). 

Photo Credit: Dr. Frances Gallart Marqué.
Photo Credit: Dr. Frances Gallart Marqué.

To add, throughout time, the differentiated narratives of figurines started from stature in popular culture. To explain, terracotta figurines were held as high examples for women to imitate feminine, beauty standards. 

Similarly, in the Harappan (Indian) culture, ancient craftsmen created terracotta figurines of mother goddesses and royal women. They depicted these artworks as having feminine beauty (huge flared headdresses, heavy jewelry, wide hips, and ample breasts).

Photo Credit: Dr. Frances Gallart Marqué.

In addition, in the 19th century, figurines were used as examples in literature, fashion, painting, performance art. Unfortunately, figurines grew to have a negative connotation over time. They were forged (from molded casts), reinterpreted in themes that were misogynistic, sexual, or with erotic undertones, and were appropriated from different cultures.

Photo Credit: Dr. Frances Gallart Marqué.
Photo Credit: Dr. Frances Gallart Marqué.

In contrast,, how figurines are perceived presently by museums, differs. Figurines receive little to no attention as most of their history has either been lost, reconceptualized, or undocumented. Considering that figurines are now viewed as  “tacky toys”, the history or aesthetics are not discussed in introductory courses, nor are exhibited in museums. Figurines are seen as less than due to their miniature size, preservation (whether discolored or broken), stylization like toys, the feminine connotation of the clay medium.

Photo & youtube video credit: 5-minute crafts play (subscribe :D! )

Reflecting, I learned greatly from this scholarly talk, more so that terracotta figurines have a feminist context that influenced the consumers, and now have little influence on today’s audience except a few.

Thus, I like the approach of Marqués talk because it highlighted the once important history of figurines, and these artworks should not be undervalued in general. She reassures young girls should not feel indifferent about playing with figurines, for they still hold importance. That is why Marqués’s profession as an archaeologist (a woman one) is important to translate the ideology of how important it is to learn through play, especially with figurines.

Her article listed, more about: https://harvardartmuseums.org/article/art-talk-girls-will-be-girls


One response to “Reflection on scholarly talk: Girls Being Girls: Playing with Figurines in the Field and the Museum”

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