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Food and Family

As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches our thoughts turn to food and family. If you search our collection database using the term “food” under the quick search, you can find a variety of objects. We have World War I posters that warn against wasting food. We have a rice harvesting tool from Vietnam. We have a color, Farm Security Administration photograph of women slicing pies.  We also have a small terracotta of a woman baking bread in an oven, which is from Boeotia, Greece (ca. 500 BC).

According to Frances J. Niederer in the article “The Bolles-Rogers Collection: Terracottas, Vases, and Jewelry” from the January 1974 issue of  Archaeology magazine,  small figurines of peasants performing every day tasks were popular in late Archaic Boeotia. She mentions that their purpose would have been to serve the dead. Niederer calls this figurine very typical.

She describes the figurine: “The woman has placed four loaves in an open oven who door lies at her feet. Red paint on white slip has been used to emphasize her lips, to make stripes on her arms and shoulders and to outline the opening, beneath the oven, that contained the fire.”


Here is a similar Cypriot example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Cypriot from the MET Museum in NY

The terracotta figurine was given to Williams College in 1977 by Charles Bolles-Rogers, Class of 1907.

His children have had extensive correspondence with the museum. He is pictured here with his granddaughters, at an opening featuring his collection, in the Williams Alumni Review in 1970.

While the correspondence centers around the art objects, the letters portray the life of a family in vivid detail including references to holidays and vacations.

The Bolles-Rogers collection also includes Ancient greek marbles, bronzes, Egyptian minor arts, Byzantine manuscript illuminations, as well as more contemporary European and American works such as paintings by Whistler and Jackson Pollock. You can type in the term “Bolles-Rogers” in the quick search of our collection database to view all of the objects from the family that are here at the museum.

It is appropriate at Thanksgiving time to think of the terracotta woman making bread 2500 years ago (and how little the process of making bread has changed), as well as the family who made it possible for this piece to exist at our museum.

The Williams College Museum of Art will be closed Thanksgiving Day.

The museum will be open Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 1 to 5 pm.

One Response to Food and Family

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