Greece, Classical Period, ca. late 6th to 5th century BCE. A beautiful, rare, lidded bronze cauldron, also known as a lebes or an urn. The body is wide and cylindrical, with deep, straight walls and a base that is slightly rounded at its edges, as if made to sit in sand or dirt rather than on a flat surface. The vessel's rim bulges outward, with two hinges attached to the rim and to the lid. Bronze rods, each with a looped handle on one end, slide through the hinges to hold the lid closed. The lid is rounded, with raised bands wrapped around its surface that give it a ziggurat-like appearance. It is capped by a sharply-pointed handle. Size: 8.75" W x 10.75" H (22.2 cm x 27.3 cm)
The lidded lebes was widely used throughout the classical world, including in Attic Greece and Etruria, both as a temple offering and as a cinerary urn for holding human remains wrapped in cloth. The size of this one suggests that it was probably used for the former. They were given as rewards to winning athletes (who might then use them as their own urns) and also were gifts given at banquets, again with the intention of ultimately being used in the grave. Most of our known examples come from elite tombs, and they were prized items in the ancient world.
See a similar vessel with a flat lid at the Louvre: https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/lebes
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Dr. Martin Peretz collection, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, acquired in the 1980s
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