Thymiaterion

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A beautifully decorated pottery vase from the region of Apulia which, given its form, can be identified as a thymiaterion. Is a type of censer or incense burner, used in the Mediterranean region since antiquity for spiritual and religious purposes and especially in religious ceremonies.

The term is used not only for the censers of ancient Greece, from where the term comes, but also to describe the censers of other peoples of the ancient world, such as the Phoenicians and Etruscans. Thymiateria could take a wide variety of forms, ranging from simple earthenware pots to elaborate carved, moulded or cast items made from clay or bronze. Various types of thymiateria are still used in the Greek Orthodox rituals in churches, homes, cemeteries etc. They are commonly known also as "livanisteria".

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. These consist of bands of meander, ovulo, bunches of grapes and other geometric elements.

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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