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Oil Jar with a Woman at Her Toilette

about 450 B.C.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

This red-figure lekythos captures an intimate moment of a woman at her toilette. The nude woman glances back over her shoulder, momentarily turning her gaze from contemplating herself in the mirror. The unknown vase-painter included familiar household items, such as the small chest at the left and the kalathos, or wool basket, at the right. Scenes of a woman at her toilette are found in Athenian vase-painting from the early 500s B.C. on, but the women are usually clothed. The portrayal of this woman as nude may indicate that she is a hetaira, or prostitute. The use of added white paint for the woman's flesh¿an unusual choice in red-figure pottery of the mid-400s B.C.¿further emphasizes her nudity. This vase did not fire properly in the kiln. Much of its surface is a red-brown, rather than the standard deep black of Athenian pottery. The side of the lekythos to the right of the woman even has a "ghost" of a meander pattern band caused by touching another vase during firing.

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