Southern Italy, Canosan, ca. 3rd century BCE. The form of this remarkable vessel is two ovoid jars, symmetrically placed and mirroring each other's form of flat base and wide flaring mouth, joined together by a double arch handle. A creamy, buff-colored base is painted with black decorative bands of marine imagery, starting with inverted waves below the rim, plant-like designs, a ring of dolphins, more abstract, rounded bands that look like shorelines and bubbles, and, occupying roughly the bottom quarter, a ring of what look like starfish, underwater plants, and a single, thin, dolphin-like animal. Small circles and triangles of a sparingly-used purple-pink pigment highlight the design; this pigment is most likely made from crushed shells. Vessels as fine as this one were produced specially for funerary purposes, and have been found in the chambered tombs dug out of the bedrock that surrounds Canosa. Size: 11.4" W x 7.5" H (29 cm x 19 cm)
The dolphin was a strong motif in Greek culture as a whole; in the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus we learn that dolphins were once humans, created when sailors kidnapped Dionysus and he made them magically leap into the sea and transform into the grinning mammals. The dolphin was also considered the swiftest of all living beings, and is associated with godliness and royalty because of its place as king of the sea. Repeated dolphin motifs are painted, for example, on Demeter's robes in a skyphos held by the British Museum. Their placement on this vessel is part of that artistic tradition.
A similar double situla sold at Christie’s New York, sale 2007, 4 June 2008, lot 212, for US$ 8,750 (= € 5,665).
Provenance: Ex - Prominent LA County collector who acquired these prior to 2000
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