A Mycenaean Pottery Stirrup Jar, ca. 1200 - 1100 BC


Biconical in form, on a ring base, the handles and body of this stirrup jar are painted with a light brown slip contrasting with the buff colored clay fabric. The painting of the surface was likely designed to accentuate the stirrup jar’s sculptural form. The body is highlighted with a simple but carefully painted wide horizontal bands, alternating with areas of light, horizontal lines, encircling the vessel to emphasize its full, rounded profile, the shoulder delicately painted with four stylized seashells around the shoulder. The top of the false spout is decorated with a central dot.

Unique in form, stirrup jars were first produced in Crete towards the end of the Middle Minoan Period (1700-1550 B.C.). This unusual pottery type is also known as the “false neck amphora” because what should function as the vessel’s mouth between two handles is a false spout that is capped by a clay disk, the liquid actually pouring from a spout on the shoulder of the vase. The stirrup jar is particularly suited for the transport and pouring of liquids – the false spout and stirrup handles are well designed for holding, while the narrow neck of the true spout allowed for easy control of the liquid’s flow. The small spout of the stirrup jar would also have been easy to seal up for transport and to prevent the scent of perfumed oil from evaporating.

Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall.

Dimensions: Height: 7.62 cm (3 inches) Width: 7.62 cm (3 inches)

Provenance: Private DC diplomatic collection, acquired prior to 1968 and then by descent.

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