Ancient Greece, Athens (Attic), Attributed to the Painter of Athens 1826, ca. 460 to 450 BCE. A fabulous Attic white ground lekythos depicting a touching scene in which two family members (one male and one female) are visiting a loved one's grave. The maiden standing at the left is tying red ribbons or fillets around the grave marker or stele. On the right is a cloaked male holding a walking stick or staff. The grave stands upon a tiered pedestal. In addition to this meaningful scene, the decorative program is quite impressive, featuring sinuous vines of stylized palmettes and pomegranates with a register of egg and dart above on the shoulder, and a fine-line register of Greek-key motif just above the figural scene. Below the foot a graffito X E.Size: 9.625" H (24.4 cm)
See a similar white-ground lekythos by the Painter of Athens 1826 at the Getty Museum (object number 86.AE.253 - http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/12028/painter-of-athens-1826-attic-white-ground-lekythos-greek-attic-470-460-bc/). The curatorial team writes, "In the late 500s B.C., Athenian potters began to cover the natural reddish color of their pottery with a highly purified clay that turned white when fired. Initially, artists applied this technique to a variety of shapes decorated with a wide range of scenes. Just before the middle of the 400s B.C., however, artists began limiting the use of this technique to a specific shape, the lekythos, a small oil container used in funerary ritual, and the decoration on the vessel shifted almost exclusively to funerary scenes. This change was due to the fragile nature of the white slip, which did not wear well, but served the one-time usage of a funeral quite nicely."
The term white ground relates to the light colored slip coating on the body and shoulder of the vase. Upon this background, motifs were drawn in outline and then hand painted in rich colors. The vast majority of these vessels were created to pay tribute to the deceased in Athens - either for burial with the deceased or as grave offerings. Lekythoi traditionally held aromatic oils and were decorated in the white ground technique from the middle until the end of the fifth century BCE.
Accompanied by TL document from Laboratory Kotalla (2016).
Provenance: private Connecticut, USA collection; acquired at Gorny & Mosch, 16 June 2016, Lot 206; ex-Dean Collection, London, acquired in 1975; Accompanied by TL document from Laboratory Kotalla (2016).
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