Squat Lekythos

A beautifully decorated pottery vase from the region of Apulia which, given its form, can be identified as a lekythos, which, due to its form, with a low round body and flat, disk-form base, has been given the name of “squat lekythos”. It retains its strap handle at the back. The neck ends gracefully in a trumpet-form mouth.

This example is painted entirely in a satin black colour apart from the two bands of clay-red colour which circle and embellish the foot. The high quality of the black glaze finish acquired after the firing is a perfect support for the decorative patterns painted on the belly of the vase in white, brown and golden yellow. The decoration is organised in bands of ovulo and geometric motifs with dashes and dots. The main decoration consists of a deer or fawn on a circular pedestal in the form of a funnel. Vegetal stems shoot up on either side from the base of the scene.

A lekythos is a type of Greek pottery used to store perfumed oil to be used to anoint the body. This sort of vessel was also used for funerary purposes. It is characterized by its elongated form, narrow neck and wide mouth which facilitates application of the oil while controlling the flow.

This is a typical piece of ceramic ware that can easily be related to the so-called “Gnathian” production, and more precisely to the ancient town of Egnazia, on the coast of modern-day Puglia (the designation is inappropriate and dates to the 19th century). Such vessels were produced in southern Italy for some one hundred years, from the mid-fourth century BC until late in the following century. With their glossy black glaze, and the frequent presence of gadroons, they tend to imitate metal ware. The decorative patterns (figural, vegetal and most often geometric) were applied to the black painted surface and highlighted in white, brownish/gold yellow and, more rarely, purple – as beautifully exemplified here.

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