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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Attic Vases : Attic Black-Figure Lekythos
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Attic Black-Figure Lekythos - PF.6227
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 5 th Century BC
Dimensions: 8" (20.3cm) high
Collection: Classical
Medium: Painted Terracotta

Location: United States
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Lekythoi had both a functional and a ritual context for the ancient Greeks. Within daily life, they were used as flasks to hold precious ointments such as fragrant perfumes and sumptuous oils. They also used in funerary rites, specifically the white-ground varieties. These lekythoi, often decorated with scenes of mourning, would have been left on the grave as offerings or used to pour libations over the deceased. This lekythos, however, clearly was meant for the living and not for the dead. The upper half of the cylindrical body is decorated with a scene of a chariot race rendered in the black-figure technique against a white background. Two quadrigas are in the midst of competing against each other, presumably in a hippodrome. The stampeding steeds rear upwards as the charioteer leans forward and readies for the homestretch. The competition follows closely behind, raising his gad in a desperate attempt to catch up. Strokes of red paint highlight the horses’ manes and tails as well as the robes and headbands of the charioteers. The painter also carefully incised lines against the black paint, detailing the facial features of the men and horses as well as the contours of their overlapping bodies and the reigns of the horses. One assumes that such a lovely lekythos might have once been the treasured possession of a charioteer or a racing fanatic. Perhaps this vase was even awarded as a prize in a race. This gorgeous vessel gives us an insight into the daily lives of the ancient Greeks, who celebrated the sport horseracing as we continue to today. Furthermore, this lekythos is a splendid example of the delicate artistry and mastery of line that defines Greek vase painting. - (PF.6227)


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