Greece, Athens, ca. 540 BCE. A beautiful Attic lip cup - a type of Little Master Cup or kylix - created during the mid 6th century BCE that resembles a Gordion cup, only its lip is more defined from the rest of the body, standing on a hollow conical pedestal foot with a broad base. In this example the lip is undecorated; however, a magnificent Gorgon face peers out from the tondo - its visage presenting wide open eyes, arched brows, an open mouth revealing teeth and a wagging tongue, and a curly coiffure. The gorgon is surrounded by a border of radiating red and black forms, perhaps abstract depictions of snakes. Lip cups were somewhat difficult to produce, and the pronounced ridge underneath the rim of lip cups would have prevented spilling. Size: 10.875" W handlespan x 4.125" H (27.6 cm x 10.5 cm)
Gorgons are frightening beast-like female creatures seen as early as the days of Homer and continued to be used as a monstrous symbol throughout the Roman period. The Gorgon was one of three mythological sisters of the ancient Greek world whose hideous visages embodied the most horrifying aspects of death and the supernatural, with wide open eyes, a pointy protruding nose, a disturbing toothy, fang-framed smile, and a curly coiffure as we see in this example. Known for their potent gazes that could turn one to stone, Gorgons were also favored as architectural ornaments, because it was believed that they would protect those within. Perhaps the most famous image of a Gorgon is featured upon the pediment of the Temple at Corfu (ca. 580 BCE), the oldest known pediment in Greece, preceding this piece by only about forty years.
Provenance: ex-private New York, New York, USA collection; acquired from Galleria Serodine, Ascona, 1988 (Schweizerische Kunst-und Antiquitätemesse, Basel, 9-17 April 1988, no. 37)
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