The kylix was designed primarily for the drinking of wine, and was the most commonplace vessel for this purpose. According to the mythological tradition of ancient Greece, the winged sphinx was a hybrid creature: it had the head of a human, the body of a lion, and the wings of a bird. The Sphinx is usually characterised as cruel and treacherous, typically telling a person a riddle, and killing and eating those unable to answer it correctly. The creature appears in a variety of myths and stories – perhaps most famously as part of the Oedipus myth, in which the protagonist correctly answered the Sphinx’s riddle and thus became king of Thebes: the first step in the realisation of his fate. The musicians on the kylix seem to allude to Dionysian rites – a very fitting image in the context of a wine vessel.
Attic Black-Figure Terracotta Kylix
An Attic, black-figure, terracotta kylix with D-shaped applied loop handles and a low pedestal foot. The body is decorated internally with glossy black paint, featuring a series of concentric circles and a central black silhouette of a sphinx against a red background. The external surface is decorated with three silhouettes of musicians, palmettes, and a stylised deer. Two of the musicians are depicted playing the lyre, while the third one is shown standing and holding a circular item, possibly a wreath or a tambourine. A black concentric circle underlines the scene, while the base of the bowl and the stem of the foot have been painted in black.
Condition: Fine condition; some minor crazing and signs of ageing on the surface.