Hydria (Water Jar)

This ancient Greek jar was used to hold water—and it’s over 2,500 years old. Take a deeper dive into the work.

Hydria (Water Jar) (ca. 525 BC) by Circle of Antimenes PainterMilwaukee Art Museum

Water Jar
This hydria was used to hold water. The Greek word for water (“hydor”) is the root of the English word “hydrate.”

There are two side handles for carrying the water-filled jar. There is a third handle on the back; this handle was used to help pour the water out.

Black-figure terracotta
This style of jar is called “black-figure terracotta.” The maker used a thinned-down clay (called “slip”) to fill in the outlines of the figures. Slip turns black when fired (the heating process used to harden the terracotta), while the background stays the orange color of the clay.

Details were scratched in after the jar was fired (hardened with heat).

Woman or man
White paint was added to differentiate women (shown with light skin) from men (shown with dark skin).

The figure on the left end is Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. We know it’s him because he wears a wreath of grapevines and has a long robe and beard.

The bare-chested figure in the middle, sitting with his lyre, a string instrument, is Apollo, the Greek god of youth and music.

At the far right, Hermes wears a short cloak, winged boots, and a traveler’s hat. As is appropriate for the Greek messenger god, he is moving away from the group and tips his hat in farewell.

The Antimenes painter
Since the names of most ancient Greek vase painters are unknown, art historians often give the painters general names based on a well-known example of their style. The Antimenes painter— the maker of this hydria— is known for having used three registers (or vertically stacked bands). Notice in this example that the bottom register is filled with animals.

Credits: Story

Circle of Antimenes Painter
(Athens, Greece, active ca. 530–ca. 510 BC)
Hydria (Water Jar), ca. 525 BC
Black-figure terracotta
19 1/2 × 15 1/4 × 12 1/2 in. (49.53 × 38.74 × 31.75 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Everett N. Carpenter
Photographer credit: Larry Sanders

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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