The three Graces, or the allegory of the gift: A contribution to the history of an idea in anthropology. Translated by Eléonore Rimbault.

Denis Vidal


Marcel Mauss' The gift is one of the most revered texts of social anthropology. It is also one of the most debated. But, paradoxically enough, these debates have not focused on the main cultural tradition to which the famous essay may be attached. In this article, I attempt to show that Mauss' anthropological theorization of the gift perpetuates and slightly modifies a very ancient tradition of reflection, fundamentally based on a few concepts—charis, gratia, and grace—all of which played a crucial role in European cultural history. This article also reveals the specific function played in this context by the allegory and iconography of the three Graces. 


Three Graces, allegory of the gift, Mauss, gratia, charis, Seneca, Chrysippus, Lévi-Strauss

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau4.2.024