Vase in the form of a female head

Unknown"circa 480 BC" - ""

Museum of Cycladic Art

Museum of Cycladic Art
Athens, Greece

Attic trefoil-mouthed vase in the shape of a female head, with the lips on the face describing an "Archaic smile". Vases in the shape of human heads are known from the Late Geometric period in the Levant and on Rhodes, and from the mid-7th c. in Crete. In Athens plastic vases in the form of a human head appeared around 545 BC and their production continued into the 4th c. BC. The heads - usually simple but sometimes double-faced - are mainly of females, although mythological figures (Dionysos, Satyr, Herakles) or Negroes are not unknown. Some workshops used moulds for making the heads, to which the separately modelled neck, handle and mouth were attached. The use of plastic vases depended on the shape of their mouth: those with aryballos-shaped mouth contained aromatic oils, those with kantharos-shaped were drinking vessels and those with trefoil shape - like the one here - were for pouring water or wine, as a kind of oinochoe. Many researchers maintain that vases of this kind are influenced by East Greek (or even North Syrian) pottery. Various views on their significance have been expressed: that they imitate actors' masks and are linked with the flourishing of the theatre in the late Archaic period, or that they were for religious, cultic or funerary use.


  • Title: Vase in the form of a female head
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: "circa 480 BC" - ""
  • Provenance: Unknown
  • Physical Dimensions: h178 mm
  • Period: Classical period
  • Culture: Greek (Attic)
  • Type: head vase
  • Rights: N.P. Goulandris Foundation - Museum of Cycladic Art, N.P. Goulandis Collection, no. 1120
  • External Link: Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, Greece
  • Medium: clay

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