These figurative terracottas were produced in Alexandria in the Ptolemaic and Roman Age. They represent deities, protectors, animals, vases, theatrical masks, caricatures and people of different ethnic types who came to animate the streets of the Ptolemaic capital, which rapidly became the most important cultural centre of all the Mediterranean.
Among the artefacts there are some which are notable for their lively Greek-Egyptian eclecticism, the result of a current of a more authentically Alexandrine art of popular taste, as well as those of a more typically Greek flavour, expressed with greater stylistic and iconographic refinement.
Within this vast range of production, there is a notable group of figurines with often caricaturised facial features, as in the case of the head no. 37563, with its snub nose and large lips. This work, although produced serially using moulds, is noteworthy for its expressiveness and impressive realism.
These figurines had various uses: they were left in temples ex voto or conserved at home where they were placed in domestic lararia or shrines to domestic gods to protect dwellings and people, but could also be used to decorate furniture and walls.
The terracottas conserved in the Gregorian Egyptian Museum are from two distinct collections: the first to have been obtained was acquired following the Exhibition of Catholic Missions in Turin in 1898, as a gift from the Franciscan Missions of Upper Egypt; the second was donated in 1951 by Nedda Grassi, widow of the wealthy Italian industrialist Carlo Grassi, who had acquired the items on the Egyptian antiquarian market before 1940.