An interesting Apulian lekythos of very good size, executed in black slip with red figures. The vessel presents a long and narrow neck that flares into a large and flattened rim. The neck leads to a large, ovoid body which sits on a short, round base. A single handle joins the neck to the body. The body is decorated with two dancing female figures both facing towards the geometrical decoration beneath the single applied handle. They appear naked and display exaggerated bodily features which may allude to fertility and prosperity. One seems to be in a striding position, whereas the other dancer has one arm raised with a pointed finger and with the other hand holds on to a tainia, the ceremonial headband of Greek traditions that could be worn on the head as well as on the body. Further decoration includes typical Apulian features. A geometrical pattern decorates the base of the neck and the upper part of the body. A framing line sits above the figures and several others under them. Other typical patterns include the large palmettes beneath the handle, sided by two swirling geometrical decorations.
Date: 5th-4th century BC Provenance: Ex important North London private collection of Greek Art. Condition: Very fine. Some surface wear to gloss.
Apulia was a region of southern Italy that was famed for its glossy black glazed ware pottery and for its polychromatic decoration – often using shades of white, ochre and red. This type of vessel was used for sacred ceremonial purposes, rather than every day tasks. Ceremonial pieces were often placed as offerings in tombs, thus their subject corresponds with the iconography of funerary rituals.
Lekythoi were used in Ancient Greece to preserve and pour perfumed oil and ointments: its particular shape limited the release of the content and was suitable to prevent waste. Lekythoi were mainly used at baths and gymnasiums and for funerary offerings, as they were sometimes used for anointing dead bodies. To find out more about different types of Greek vessel please see our relevant blog post: Collecting Greek Vases.
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