Object: Lekythos

White ground lekythos
Tymbos Painter
Athens, Greece
ca. 450 BCE
Materials: ceramic, slip

A lekythos is a container for oil and perfume, with a single vertical handle. They commonly have an angular shoulder, a tall cylindrical body which rounds slightly at the bottom, and a foot. This lekythos is decorated in the white ground style, in which the figural decoration is painted in an outline style on a field of white slip. While red and black figure lekythoi were used for many common domestic purposes, white ground lekythoi are usually associated with funerary rituals and offerings. They have been found in many archaeological excavations of cemeteries and are often depicted in vase painting siting on or near graves.

This video shows some of the many funerary scenes depicted on white ground lekythoi.

This lekythos, at the Sam Noble Museum, has been attributed to the so-called Tymbos Painter. When identifying the maker or artist behind a piece of ancient pottery archaeologists occasionally encounter signed pieces. More often, pieces of pottery are grouped together based on the style of the decoration or repeating themes in the designs. Like many other Greek vase “painters,” the Tymbos Painter was named by archaeologist based on what designs he seemed to paint the most often, tombs (tymbos in Greek). These “painters” could be actual individuals or a workshop of artisans trained and working together to produce very similar pieces. This painter was originally identified by German archaeologist Ernst Buschor, and was also described by famed British archaeologist Sir John Beazley. While the Tymbos Painter was not known for elaborate designs or careful craftsmanship he was definitely prolific. There are many examples of Tymbos Painter lekythoi found in museums around the world today. For instance, a number of other examples can be found in the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Ashmolean Museum, the Louvre and many others. [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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