Ancient Greek Terracotta Xenon Miniature Kantharos
A fine Ancient Greek, Xenon terracotta vessel modelled in the shape of a miniature kantharos (κάνθαρος). The piece features a squatted ring foot, from which the characteristic deep, bowl-like body raises and opens into a large mouth with an everted rim. Two strap handles are applied to the sides, drawn upwards and folded below the rim. The vessels displays a distinctive black-glazed surface, enriched by a decorative frieze rendered in a matte light-orange colour. To one side, the piece presents evenly spaced chevrons, framed by two parallel lines at either side. On the opposite face, the vessel is decorated by a S-shaped pattern, also framed by by two parallel lines at either side.
Date: Circa 400-350 BC Provenance: From a Surrey gentleman's collection (D.G.), purchased on the London Art market from ADA member, 1990s - onwards. Condition: Fine condition.
The lustrous black gloss of this vessel indicates that it is from the Apulian region of southern Italy. From the 8th century BC onwards, southern Italy was populated by a vast number of Greek colonies, so much so that the Romans referred to the area as Magna Graecia – ‘Great Greece’. These Greek colonies were instrumental in bringing Greek culture to Italy, greatly influencing Roman literature, philosophy, and material culture in turn. Items from Apulia are characterised by the glossy black glaze covering the dish and by polychromatic pigments of white, ochre, and maroon. Pieces as this fine example are attributed to the Xenon group, a variety of Apulian pottery identifiable by their shape, such as the karanthos, and the decorative motifs rendered in a matte pinkish colour.
‘Kantharoi’ (κάνθαροι) were an ancient Greek drinking vessel, used to hold wine or ritual offerings. They were an attribute of the god of wine, Dionysus, who was also associated with vegetation and fertility. Miniature vessels such as this piece were perhaps meant as votive offerings and are prevalent within the Xenon group.
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