Lekythos. Gynaeceum scene

Bosanquet-Maler (415-401 v. Chr. tätig) | Painter


These tall slim vessels for storing oil are known as lekythoi – or lekythos in the singular. The lekythoi had a standardised design, hardly varying down the years. But their decorations did change. On the oldest lekythoi from the sixth century BC, the figures appear black. Later, by reversing the black-figure technique, the figures became red in colour, as for instance on the lekythos with a meander motif. On that vessel, you can see a servant passing her mistress a small casket. The seated woman, wearing a diadem, is stretching out her hands and has her gaze fixed on a bird – a goose. In ancient Greece, the goose was one of the sacred birds associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. So could this little casket be a lover’s gift?

From the fifth century, there were also lekythoi with coloured painting on a white ground. These lekythoi were solely used in funeral rites and practices. They contained scented oils for anointing the body of the deceased and the grave. It was also quite common for the lekythoi to be buried with the dead person as a funerary sacrifice. The decorative scenes on white-ground lekythoi were often related to the deceased. However, they did not show naturalistic images, but calm, almost emotionless stylised figures. These burial vessels were prefabricated in large numbers in workshops so they were quickly available when someone died.

Material & Technique
c. 440 BCE
Inventory number
ZV 2777