Black-figured water-jar (hydria) with a scene at a fountain-house


British Museum

British Museum

Fountain-house scenes like this one show vases of this shape (hydriai or water jars) in use. The fountain-house is shown as a small but elegant building with a pediment above two Ionic columns, and a central partition. Inside, two women are filling jars with water, which gushes out of lion-headed spouts. At each side, two more women walk away with full water-jars on their heads. All the women have circular pads on their heads to support their heavy load. The popularity of fountain-house scenes at this time may reflect contemporary improvements in Athens' water-supply. Alternatively, such scenes may have ritual connotations. Some of the figures in the scene on the shoulder of the jar carry leafy branches of a type often seen in religious contexts. The inclusion of the gods Hermes and Dionysos has led some scholars to suggest that this and similar scenes may show preparations for a ritual known as the Hydrophoria. This took place on the second day of the spring festival of the Anthesteria, and involved the ceremonial pouring of water into a particular chasm.

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  • Title: Black-figured water-jar (hydria) with a scene at a fountain-house
  • Date Created: -520/-500
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 50.80cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted; incised
  • Subject: classical deity; classical mythology; architecture; vessel; mythical figure/creature
  • Registration number: 1837,0609.53
  • Production place: Made in Attica
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Vulci
  • Period/culture: Attic; Archaic Greek
  • Material: pottery
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Bonaparte, Lucien