The Lady of Auxerre

The one exhibit that has no proven link with Eleutherna is also the star piece – which once served as a hat stand in a provincial French theater. Dating to about 640 BC, this 75-centimeter-high stone statue of a goddess or priestess displayed in the Louvre since 1909 belongs to the dawn of Greek sculpture. It closely resembles sculptural fragments from Eleutherna, lending credence to speculation that it may have been made in Crete – even in Eleutherna. This is why the Louvre authorities agreed to let it leave the museum, for the first time, for the Athens exhibition. The work’s provenance is unknown, and its recent history farcical. It formed part of a French sculptor’s collection in the 19th century, and was bought for 1 franc by the porter of an Auxerre theater – where, according to tradition, it served as a stage prop for an operetta and a convenient spot for theater-goers to hang their headgear. Eventually acquired by a local museum, it was spotted in 1907 by a Louvre curator, who managed to acquire it in exchange for a painting.