An Attic Red Figure Owl Skyphos, Athena, ca. 475 – 425 BC

Of type A form, this fine, thin walled skyphos is decorated on each side with a red figure owl standing between two olive sprays. The owl’s body is shown in profile one side facing right, the other left, while its head is turned full-face.  Two stylistic dots ringed in black represent the large eyes, the beak is shaped in a small "v," and heart-shaped dots framing the eyes represent face feathers.  The wing is simply outlined with diagonal lines depicting feathers. The sprays are more or less vertical, filling the irregular space beside the figure of the owl. Below the red-figure decoration there is a narrow reserved line, which encircles the cup and acts as a support for the overall composition. 

Background:  The owl is the classical symbol of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and war. It originated in Athens, Athena's patron city, in the mid sixth century and Athenian artists began commonly depicted owls on vases and other decorative objects to symbolize the goddess, as well as knowledge, wisdom, and protection from evil. 

Reference: Watson, Michael. "The Owls of Athena: Some Comments on Owl Skyphoi and Their Iconography." Art Bulletin of Victoria 39 (1999).

Johnson, Franklin P., "Owl Skyphos, Studies Presented to David M. Robinson," Vol. 2, p.96-105, Washington University, Saint Louis, (1953)

Johnson, Franklin P., "A Note on Owl Skyphoi," Vol. 59, p.119-124, American Journal of Archaeology.

Dimensions:   Height: 2 1/4 inches (5.7 cm), width: 5 inches (12.7 cm)

Condition:  Complete and professionally rejoined.  A most endearing example.

Provenance:  Ex. private collection of S.H., Washington, legally acquired in Greece, January 2nd, 2000, and legally exported from Greece, permit number 23214/1540 issued by the Ministry of Culture, Direction of Prehistorical and Classical Antiquities , Museums Department.  

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