Greece, Athens (Attic), ca. late 6th to early 5th century BCE. A beautiful wheel-thrown pottery lekythos, finely decorated via the red-figure technique. The vessel is defined by a tiered discoid foot, a cylindrical body with a planar shoulder, a tapered tubular neck, a thick rim, and an applied strap handle joining neck to shoulder. The iconographic program features a right-facing youthful male wearing a flowing chiton, his left leg extended and his body with a slight forward lean, with his left hand empty and upturned and holding a curved strigil in his right. A register of enclosed oscillating dots courses around the upper body, and a ring of tongues radiates outward from the neck base. Lustrous black glaze with some faint patina covers parts of the foot and handle, the majority of the body, and much of the spout save for the upper rim. Size: 2.5" W x 7.55" H (6.4 cm x 19.2 cm).
The strigil was a scraper used in combination with olive oil and sand or pumice to exfoliate the skin after exercising or bathing. It was an essential piece of equipment for the typical Greek and Roman athlete, and as such came to symbolize athleticism itself. Greek cases abound with depictions of youthful athletes using strigils in the gymnasium. The celebrated sculpture by Lysippos, the Apoxyomenos of ca. 350 to 325 BCE, depicted a nude athlete scraping himself off with a strigil. The youth depicted in this scene may be headed to the bath houses, perhaps after a rigorous training session, or away if he had just finished bathing.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Richard Wagner collection, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, acquired in the 1970s
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Repair to area of handle with some small nicks and resurfacing along break lines. Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age, minor chips and nicks to body, foot, shoulder, handle, and rim, fading to some finer details on figure, and minor lightening to black-glazed areas. Light earthen deposits throughout. Old inventory label beneath base.