Greece, Classical period, ca. mid 5th century BCE. A gorgeous bronze hydria (water vessel) with a simple, elegant form and three applied handles, one of which has a front-facing figure of a nude siren. The rim and foot are decorated with matching curves, as are the areas where the two upward facing handles join the shoulder. The handles are cast with spirals, swirls, and scrollwork. At the base of the fluted vertical handle, on a curved, thick bronze attachment, is a standing figure of a siren. She stands with her wings spread, her feathered legs and clawed feet carefully emphasized, with with a woman's body, head, and elaborate coiffure. Size: 14.75" W x 16.7" H (37.5 cm x 42.4 cm)
Hydria frequently appear in scenes of women carrying water from fountains, which was one of the duties of women during this time period. The two handles at the sides were used for lifting, while the handle at the back was used to dip and pour. However, bronze examples seem not to have been practical, but rather to have been used solely in a funerary setting. The appearance of the siren here signifies its purpose - sirens were symbolic guardians of the tomb, and acted as psychopomps.
See a similar example at the Louvre: https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/hydria-0 and a very similar example at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem: https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/hydria-water-jar-decorated-with-a-siren/lwHpFzM4DqbjiQ
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection
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