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An Attic Red Figure Squat Lekythos, ca. late 5th century BC

GP1413

with high gloss glaze, with low foot-ring and red wash on base, the high gloss glaze body decorated on one side with recumbent panther in right profile, the well detailed face looking forward, reserved ground line below, with applied cylindrical handle, and funnel mouth.

Background:  Animal imagery was rare in Attic red-figure vase painting, so the artist’s choice to depict a panther is interesting.   Iconographically, panthers are the symbolic animal of Dionysus; on numerous vase paintings they are either reclining with the god, or Dionysus is portrayed wearing a panther skin - recognizable by the spots on the hide - as can be seen on this squat lekythos.  Given Dionysus is the god of wine and frenzy, to associate him with an oil bottle is, at first, puzzling.  However, Dionysus was also associated with a secret Greek cult pertaining to earthly pleasures as well as death and resurrection cycles.  From the 5th century onward, this cult became particularly popular especially with women and wealthy families, and Dionysiac imagery in vase painting increasing significantly as a result. Given the god’s role in such metaphysical rituals, it therefore seems appropriate that an allusion to Dionysus occurs on a vessel that is commonly used as a funerary offering. 

Condition:   Some minor glaze loss and small chips to mouth that do not detract.  Intact and in very good condition overall.

Dimensions:  Height:  4 inches  (10 cm)

Provenance:  Reputedly purchased at Bernheimer's, Cambridge, Ma. in the 1980's

 


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