Attic White-ground Lekythos with Distinguished Provenance
A slim, Attic lekythos featuring the white-ground technique. The body is decorated almost entirely in white slip and is decorated with the delicate figure of a woman, looking back at a stele decorated with black ribbons. The scene has been rendered in fine pigment, which is applied after firing. There is a looped, flattened handle, attached from the bottom of the neck to the shoulders. The body rests on a small, flat foot. A dotted ray pattern decorates the shoulder. The wide rim and upper section of the foot have been applied with black slip, whilst the neck has been left uncoloured.
Circa 5th-4th Century BCProvenance:
Sir Frances Sacheveral Darwin (1786-1859) collection, UK; and thence by descent. Anonymous sale; Bonhams, London, 5 October 2011, lot 480. Gottfried and Helga Hertel collection, Cologne, acquired at the above sale. Condition:
Very fine. Chip to the foot and some loss of pigment.
White-ground lekythoi were made almost exclusively for the use in funerary rituals, to store oil. The clay used for this technique turned white when fired and allowed potters to apply pigment on top, after firing. Initially the design was used on other shapes however around the middle of the 5th century the technique was used solely for lekythoi. One explanation for this shift could be the delicate nature of the white-slip, it did not survive well on pottery used frequently but could survive on the single-use funerary flasks. Scenes depicted on white-ground lekythoi usually depicted imagery related to death and funerary rituals.
Sir Frances Sacheveral Darwin, a relative of Charles Darwin, travelled in the Mediterranean and the East from 1808-1810, and was the only one of his companions to return alive. His diary of the tour details his burgeoning interest in antiquities.