Greek colonies, Southern Italy, Campania (Paestum), ca. 325 BCE. A lekanis made in the Asteas-Python workshop with a large, flat knob on its lid and a foot of similar shape, creating a wonderfully symmetrical vessel. The base has been glazed a glossy black on its interior and exterior, with only small, vertical red lines around its upper body providing decoration. Two elaborate horizontal handles project from either side of the vessel, which stands on a round, diminutive foot. The lid features a scene of a nude male acrobat and a large bird, each seemingly intrigued by and reaching towards the other, painted around its shoulder. Flourishes, floral motifs, and wave forms surround them on the short sides and broad shoulder of the lid. A huge, doorknob-like handle - slightly wider in diameter than the foot, projecting higher than the foot is tall - rises from the center of the lid. On its upper face is a painted, abstract symbol that looks like sea life. Size: 8.5" W x 5" H (21.6 cm x 12.7 cm)
Lidded lekanides were cosmetic containers, often given by fathers to brides on their wedding day. This is an unusual example, because most feature generic motifs, usually the lady of fashion. Ancient Greece had a tradition of acrobatics, performed by both men and women, and the average Greek person would have seen performers at entertainment events similar to our modern circuses, demonstrating their skill on street corners, and, if they were lucky enough to attend one, hired as entertainment at private banquets. Men capable of being acrobats were celebrated as athletes, their bodies admired, as the artist has conveyed here. Who was this vessel made for? Did the woman who received it have a particular penchant for watching acrobatic performances?
Published: A. J. Paul, "A View into Antiquity: Pottery from the Collection of William Suddaby and David Meier," Tampa, 2001, no. 32.
Exhibited: Tampa Museum of Art, "A View into Antiquity: Pottery from the Collection of William Suddaby and David Meier," October 14, 2001-January 13, 2002.
Provenance: private Davis collection, Houston, Texas, USA; ex-Christie's December 13, 2013 New York Antiquities Auction, lot 104; ex-Christie's December 9, 2005 New York Antiquities Auction, lot 253; ex-William Suddaby collection, Florida, USA, 1990; ex-Royal Athena Galleries, New York, New York, USA, acquired in Switzerland, 1987
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