Unknownabout 425 B.C.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Aporrhias Pespelecani, or Pelican's Foot, shell is found in the Mediterranean Sea. For this marble version, an unknown sculptor carefully reproduced on a much larger scale every detail of the real shell, which would typically be three to four inches in length. Also, as is frequently the case in artistic renderings of shells, the sculptor made his version a mirror image of the actual example.

This marble shell has been hollowed out to serve as a libation vessel. The pouring of libations, or liquid offerings to the gods, was an essential part of Greek religion. The sculptor drilled through the body of the vessel in order to form a troughlike opening at one end and another smaller opening on the side just below the base of the spines. A worshipper would have poured or dipped liquid into the large opening at the end of the shell, from which it would trickle out over the fan and spiky lip of the shell. Only a few other shell-shaped marble vessels have survived from antiquity.

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  • Title: Shell
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: about 425 B.C.
  • Location Created: Greece
  • Physical Dimensions: 20.2 x 24.5 x 4.7 cm (7 15/16 x 9 5/8 x 1 7/8 in.)
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Marble with polychromy
  • Source Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California
  • Object Type: Fauna
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 57.AA.6
  • Display Location: Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 208, Religious Offerings
  • Department: Antiquities
  • Culture: Greek
  • Classification: Vessels