Terracotta alabastron with the top in the form of a female head and bust


British Museum

British Museum

This perfume bottle reproduces in clay a type of vessel originally made in stone in Syria. The vessels were worked in both stone and clay in various east Greek centres in the sixth century BC. Stone versions were made by shaping and hollowing out a rectangular block of stone, but this terracotta example was made of clay pressed into two moulds, front and back. The upper part of the vessel is modelled in the form of the head, torso and arms of a woman. She wears a peplos drawn up over her head, and a necklace with a pendant. At her breast she holds a dove. Plainer alabastra, without the female upper part, were made in many different materials, ranging from stone and clay to glass, bronze, silver and gold. They were used as containers for perfumed oil, and they remained popular throughout the Archaic and Classical periods of Greek history. Scenes on figured vases suggest that women were the main users of alabastra: they are shown being given to women as presents or being bought by women in the market. They also appear as offerings in scenes at tombs.

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  • Title: Terracotta alabastron with the top in the form of a female head and bust
  • Date Created: -550/-550
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 21.40cm; Width: 4.50cm; Weight: 196.00g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: mould-made
  • Subject: bird
  • Registration number: 1861,1024.7
  • Production place: Made in East Greece
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Kamiros
  • Period/culture: East Greek
  • Material: terracotta
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Salzmann, Auguste. Purchased from Biliotti, Alfred