Greece, Classical to early Hellenistic Periods, ca. 5th to 3rd century BCE. A massive two part terracotta pedestal, made to hold a louterion (a vessel for water, wine, or funeral rites). It is made of a pale red/pink clay, with a square bottom plinth decorated with a wave pattern on is upper edge. Resting on that is the hollow, cylindrical, vertically-fluted column shaft, whose rounded base is embellished with a tongue pattern along its upper edge. The column shaft has a convex horizontal molding for a necking ring at the top, and a recessed cylindrical rim that fits inside the top section. This capping element continues the fluting from the column shaft and has a corresponding rounded echinus, also decorated with a tongue pattern. The piece terminates in another square plinth, serving as an abacus, which again features the incised tongue decoration. The entire piece is hollow, and the roughly square opening in the upper plinth would have served to hold a basin, with the louterion inside it. Size: 15.25" L x 15.3" W x 29.5" H (38.7 cm x 38.9 cm x 74.9 cm)
These basins were used for sponge bathing or washing and are frequently depicted atop columnar pedestals in red-figure vase paintings of the 5th and 4th centuries BCE. The pedestals usually have spreading feet and are sometimes mounted on rectangular plinths, as here, creating together with the basin a form similar to a modern bird bath. Stone louteria and stands have been found in private dwellings, as at Olynthos, and in temple areas, where many seem to have been dedications, rather than functional objects. Terracotta examples are known, for example from both a bath and sanctuary area at Corinth, and bronze was also used. Most louteria were made separately from their pedestals, and were sometimes even fashioned from a different material. In Southern Italy, louteria were widely used in funerary cults as grave markers.
For similar pedestals supporting basins, compare the interior of an Etruscan kylix, published in J. Michael Padgett et al., Vase-Painting in Italy: Red-Figure and Related Works in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, 1993), cat. no. 169, pp. 251-253; a terracotta in Munich, inv. NI 6792, illustrated in Friedrich Wilhelm Hamdorf, Hauch des Prometheus (Munich, 1996), fig. 154, p. 120; a marble relief in the Vatican, illustrated in Margarete Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age (New York, 1961), fig. 658; and the reverse of an Etruscan mirror, ex Alfred E. Mirsky Coll., sold at Christie's New York, 16 June 2006, lot no. 225. For a marble specimen at Olynthos, see David M. Robinson & George E. Mylonas, "The Fourth Campaign at Olynthos," AJA 43.1 (Jan.-Mar. 1939), pp. 48-77, at pp. 60-61, fig. 14. For fragments of terracotta pedestals at Corinth, see Mario lozzo, "Corinthian Basins on High Stands," Hesperia 56.4 (Oct.-Dec. 1987), pp. 355-416, cat. nos. 101, 108, & 114-118, pp. 401, 403, 407-408, pl. 78-79 & 81. For a discussion of louteria, see D. A. Amyx, "The Attic Stelai: Part III. Vases and Other Containers," Hesperia 27.3 (Jul.-Sep. 1958), pp. 163-254, at pp. 221-228.
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 East Coast, USA collection; ex-private New York, New York, USA collection, acquired in the 1990s
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