Greece, Athens, ca. 6th to 5th century BCE. A very special kylix cup also called an eye cup as it presents two pairs of wide-open eyeballs painted in silhouette style in black, pink, and red pigments, surrounded by extensive dotted grapevines - the fruit clusters delineated in black and pink. In addition, 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. Teeth and chin whiskers are delineated in fugitive white pigment, while the tongue is delineated in fugitive red pigment. Scholars believe that Greek vase painters placed eyes on cups, because they were apotropaic - having the power to ward off evil. Another theory is that that when held up to drink, the eye cup would transform into a mask with painted eyes, handles that resembled ears, and the foot resembling a mouth. Size: 10.75" W handlespan x 3.125" H (27.3 cm x 7.9 cm)
The invention of the eye cup is traditionally attributed to Exekias whose eye cup in the Staatliche Antikensammlungen in Munich (530 to 540 BCE) is generally regarded as a masterpiece. Exekias presented large apotropaic eyes and battles between heroes on the exterior and on the interior, Dionysos sailing in a ship with dolphins in the surrounding seas. (https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Attic-black-fi-gure-cup-Munich-Staatliche-Antikensammlungen-2082_fig8_272179770)
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.
This piece has been tested using thermoluminescence (TL) analysis and has been found to be ancient and of the period stated. A full report will accompany purchase.
Provenance: private California, USA Collection; ex-Haerr collection, 1970s and 1980s, California, USA
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