Oil vessel with figural decoration: Aphrodite and Eros

UnknownCa. 400–365 BC

Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

This unusual vessel unites two genres of ancient art. On the front is a composition of three figures sculpted in terracotta and painted, while on the back is the palmette decoration and attached lekythos neck typical of a Greek vase.
Aphrodite, the goddess of love, sits between two Erotes. Her mantle billows out behind her. She places her left hand on the shoulder of a small Eros standing beside an incense burner (thymiaterion), and in her right hand holds an open box. A second Eros hovers over her with wings spread, unfurling a mantle in his outstretched arms. Plastically modelled rosettes surround the group. The group is set upon a flared base like a sculpture, and a blue riser with wavy edges which is perhaps meant to recall the sea. The figures were created in various moulds before being assembled and finally painted in pastel blues and pinks, yellow, white, gold, and black. Indentations from the potter’s fingers appear on the rear hemisphere of the vessel, which was finished by hand. The decoration on this side is characteristic of decorative schemes on vases in the first half of the fourth century BC: palmettes stacked one atop the other, dense vegetal ornament, and a narrow egg-and-dart border at the bottom.
With this combination of sculpture and vase, Athenian craftsmen introduced a new type of vessel which, judging from their findspots, were almost exclusively exported out of Attika. The presence of the goddess of love and Erotes may hint that the vessel served as a wedding gift, while the very fine painting might suggest rather a grave good or votive offering in a sanctuary. Whatever its function, this oil vessel and its profusion of figures evidence a close collaboration between workshops of potters, painters, and clay sculptors.

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  • Title: Oil vessel with figural decoration: Aphrodite and Eros
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Ca. 400–365 BC
  • Location: Said to be from Atalante (Lokris)
  • Physical Dimensions: h26 cm
  • Type: Statuette
  • Medium: Clay
  • Object acquired: Acquired in 1876
  • Inv.-No.: F 2905
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-814319
  • External link: Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Verlag Philipp von Zabern / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / U Kä. || Photo: © b p k - || Photo Agency / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Johannes Laurentius
  • Collection: Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz

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