An Attic Red Figure Owl Skyphos, Classical Period, ca. 425 - 400 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-shaped in a small "v," and dots framing the eyes represent face feathers.  The wing is simply outlined with diagonal lines depicting feathers. The sprays are 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: Repaired from two fractured pieces, but intact and in good condition.

Provenance: Private Canadian collection, acquired in 2010, previously ex. private Colorado collection.

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