Something I stumbled upon many years ago was that Barbie released a Greek Goddess series in 2008. Three figures from Greek myth got the treatment, the dolls designed by Linda Kyaw. Here they are.
Curiously the first released in 2008 was Medusa, a character notable for not being a Greek goddess. In recent times she’s been re-evaluated and considered more as a victim of a series of awful situations. My first memory of her was in the original Clash of the Titans film (1982) and to this day she still scares me. I encountered her at a Ray Harryhausen exhibition several years ago.
In any case, here she is.
There’s certainly a snake theme going on there. Presumably snakes as hair wasn’t practical.
Medusa in Greek Art.
Early depictions of Medusa follow that of gorgons in general – they were monsters with tusks. In the 6th century vase below, attributed to the Amasis painter, you can see this clearly (located in the British Museum).
By the Hellenistic period Medusa’s appearance in art had changed. Gone were the boar’s tusks and in their place we find the face and appearance of a woman. A far more sensitive approach was adopted to the point where representations of her beheading by Perseus find her a a very vulnerable character. The Met Museum did a short piece on this but there’s also a great piece by Lazarou and Liritzis on this.
In 2009 we have technically our first goddess and a good choice, though I would argue Artemis would have been a more appropriate deity (after all she was the goddess associated with young girls).
The tricky thing with Aphrodite is that her famous origin story, being born from the sea, has a grisly genesis to it (which I won’t go into here). There was also an alternate origin story for her as just being a standard daughter of Zeus. In any case what we have here is a very nautical theme. Perhaps one option might have been to include her famous girdle? Her magical charm (the iunx) could have been a nice accessory but that would have involved a wheel and a bird. Perhaps best left out then.
Btw Aphrodite did have a cure for heartbreak – read about it here.
Last but by no means least. Only 5,300 were made apparently which makes it a rare collectible.
According to Barbie Wiki this is Barbie decked out in battle armour which includes a gold breastplate, gold headpiece, gold boots and a golden shield bearing the face of Medusa Barbie (nice crossover).
Dolls from antiquity.
It should also be noted that dolls weren’t the preserve of the modern day.
This might seem a touch scary but it’s a very old paddle doll from Egypt. The British Museum dates it to the the First Intermediate / Middle Kingdom period which places it anytime from 2100BC through to 1650 BC.
This is a terracotta doll produced in Corinth and dated to the 5th and 4th centuries BC. As the Museum of Cycladic Art notes these could have been suspended by a loop of string through the head to they could be hung or made to dance. The difficulty with such objects is to firmly ascribe them as playthings. Objects such as these were often found in the graves of children. Did they serve a specific purpose? Or was it a case of a personal possession accompanying the child into the afterlife? Perhaps both.