These young ladies, linked in a dance-like pose, represent The Three Graces: Aglaia (Beauty), Euphrosyne (Happiness), and Thalia (Abundance). They bestow what is most pleasurable and beneficent in nature and...
These young ladies, linked in a dance-like pose, represent The Three Graces: Aglaia (Beauty), Euphrosyne (Happiness), and Thalia (Abundance). They bestow what is most pleasurable and beneficent in nature and society: fertility and growth, beauty in the arts, and harmonious reciprocity between men. The Three Graces enjoyed venerable cults in Greece and Asia Minor. In mythology, they play an attendant role, gracing festivals and organizing dances. Their closest connection is with Aphrodite, whom they serve as handmaidens.
About twenty full-size Roman marble versions of this famous Hellenistic Greek group are known thus far. Although ours is smaller than full-size, it is one of the finer and best-preserved examples. The Graces are represented as nude young girls standing with their hands on each other’s shoulders, the center figure facing the other two. Drapery-covered water jars frame the group. The graceful frieze-like pose is one of the most famous compositions known from antiquity. Where and by whom the scheme 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 very kind of object from mirrors to sarcophagi, and its popularity continued into the Renaissance. The representation ultimately derives from the famous classical statue of Aphrodite by Praxiteles at Knidos, in western Asia Minor. The style and technique of our Roman marble group suggests a date in the first two centuries of our modern era.
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For the most recent and comprehensive discussion of The Three Graces, see the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC) Vol. 3 (Zürich 1986) under "Charis, Charites/Gratiae," esp. nos. 1-139 (H. Sichtermann).
See also J. Francis, “The Three Graces: Composition and Meaning in a Roman Context”, Greece and Rome Vol. 49:2 (2002) 180-98.
For the group of The Three Graces in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, see I. Love, Ophiuchus Collection (Florence 1989) pp. 60–65; Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin Vol. 68:2 (Fall 2010) 10 (C.A. Picón); P. Zanker and others, Roman Art: A Guide Through The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Collection (New York 2020) 161-64 cat. no. 62.