A Corinthian Black Figure Alabastron, Archaic Period, ca. 7th - 6th Centuries BCE


A beautifully decorated alabastron, showing two cockerels with an undulating snake between them as well as rosettes of varying sizes. On the disc rim, around the neck, and from the base tongues are emanating; black dots were added on the rim edge. The alabastron is made of fine clay, the buff color of which forms the background for the black and crimson slip decoration; incisions were used during the decoration process.

The vessel shows the typical form of Corinthian alabastra: a footless, rounded base, the body curving with the widest diameter near the base and then tapering to a narrow neck. A single ear-like and pierced protrusion, reaching from the neck to the rim, functions as a handle or rather was used to suspend the alabastron by a string looped through the opening. The wide, flat mouth has a narrow aperture, ideally suited for pouring oil (alabastra were used for ointments and perfumed oil); the spreading lip or rim is rather thick.

For the motive of two confronting cocks with a snake in between see also a Corinthian Oinochoe in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston 01.8050), see Darrell A. Amyx, Corinthian Vase-Painting of the Archaic Period (Berkeley, 1988), 319 no. B-1; A. Fairbanks, Catalogue of Greek and Etruscan Vases in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Cambridge, Mass., 1928), pl. 63, no. 553.

The same motive also on a Corinthian column-krater in Paris, Louvre E 617 (NC 1177A); see Darrell A. Amyx – Patricia Lawrence, Archaic Corinthian Pottery and the Anaploga Well (Princeton, New Jersey, 1975), volume 7, part 2, p. 49, no. 161. On a Corinthian aryballos: ibid., 32-33, no. 86; on an alabastron ibid. 19 (referring to Payne, Necrocorinthia, 277-279).


Schaeffer, Judith Snyder, Ramage, Nancy H., Greenewalt, Crawford Hallock, The Corinthian, Attic, and Lakonian pottery from Sardis (Harvard University Press, 1997);

Payne, H., Necrocorinthia. A Study of Corinthian Art in the Archaic Period (Oxford, 1931);

Boardman, John, Early Greek Vase Painting: 11th-6th centuries BC (London, 1998);

For the composition of a pair of cocks with a snake between them see E. Grabow, Schlangenbilder in der griechischen schwarzfigurigen Vasenkunst (Münster, 1998), more specifically p. 46-52.

Dimensions: Height: 9.2 cm (3.6 inches)

Condition: Intact; surface slightly worn in places; some scratches and other surface damage.

Provenance:  Private collection B.F., United Kingdom, acquired in the 1970s.

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