A Published Attic White Ground Lekythos by the Painter of the Yale Lekythos, ca. 470–460 B.C.


Attributed to the Painter of the Yale Lekythos, this lovely perfume type vase is decorated using a particular technique: line drawing in matt on a white ground for the composition, whereby a few strokes provide facial detail or render bodily volume. A delicate polychromy enhanced the drapery; barely fired, it has now partially disappeared. The scene here is most interesting and unusual for it shows a woman selling olive oil to a customer; such scenes are known, but normally on pelikai. She has drawn a sample of oil out of a pelike with a dip stick, and offers the youth a full alabastron.  Behind her, a lekythos on the wall is also for oil.

Background: In the late 500s B.C., Athenian potters began to cover the natural reddish color of their pottery with a highly purified clay that turned white when fired. Initially, artists applied this technique to a variety of shapes decorated with a wide range of scenes. Just before the middle of the 400s B.C., however, artists began limiting the use of this technique to a specific shape--the lekythos, a small oil container used in funerary ritual--and the decoration on the vessels shifted almost exclusively to funerary scenes. This change was due to the fragile nature of the white slip, which did not wear well but served the one-time use of a funeral quite nicely.

Published:  K. Deppert, Griechische Vasen (1984) Nr. 20. v,gl.: Beazley ARV2, 662ff.

Condition:  Expected minor repairs with cosmetic overpainting, overall in very good condition.

Dimensions: Height: 7 1/4 inches ( 18.4 cm)

Provenance:  Dr. Wilhelm Hartwig, Weinheim, Germany, acquired David Cahn auction 9/27/2005, published, 1984.

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