The world is in a state of upheaval at the moment, and we’re all looking for things to make us feel less anxious. Maybe Classics can help.
Today’s interview is with Daisy Dunn
Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?
There’s a small terracotta sculpture in the British Museum of two young women perched on the ground playing knucklebones. It’s quite a modest piece but so sensitive and beautiful. It’s strangely calming to behold.
When did you first come across this sculpture?
It caught my eye many years ago while I was visiting the museum and I saw it again when it was displayed as part of the Defining Beauty exhibition in 2015. I often look at pictures of it at home.
Can you tell me a bit about the sculpture and its context?
The sculpture is thought to be Campanian and was probably made around 330–300 BC. The paint has faded but a surprising amount of colour still survives.
What is it about this object that appeals to you most?
The figures are so animated they seem to be moving. I love the look of concentration on their faces and the position of their hands. It’s such a simple thing, two people playing a game, but charming for that. It’s not often you see women so carefree and at leisure in the ancient world.
And finally… what do you do, outside of Classics, to cheer yourself up?
I read a lot, especially poetry, and enjoy looking at art, even if it’s just online. Lately I’ve been going through old photographs of my travels and reminiscing.
Dr Daisy Dunn is an author, classicist and critic. Her most recent books, published in 2019, are In The Shadow of Vesuvius: A Life of Pliny, Of Gods and Men: 100 Stories from Ancient Greece & Rome, and Homer: A Ladybird Expert Book. Her website is www.daisydunn.co.uk and she tweets at @Daisyfdunn.
4 thoughts on “Comfort Classics: Daisy Dunn”
I love this small sculpture, the two women are completely engrossed in their activity. Definitely lessons to be gained in these hectic strange times from the mindfulness aspect and taking time for leisure, to the sociability (albeit with technology at present).
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What a lovely sculpture – I hadn’t seen it before, so thank you for sharing this. And I enjoyed reading “In the shadow of Vesuvius” very much.
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Yes, it’s a lovely vignette; interesting that the figure on the left is wearing her hair down, while the right figure wears her hair up, possibly in a snood? This could indicate a difference in age.
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Sculptures are possibly my favourite source type, and I’d never seen this one before! I loved the dynamism and the window it opens on female leisure time. Thank you Daisy Dunn, In the Shadow of Vesuvius is on my summer reading list!
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