The ‘kantharos’ was a form of Greek drinking vessel, though mostly used for ritualistic consumption of wine, or for pouring libations. On account of this religious significance, the kantharos became a familiar attribute of Dionysus, the god of wine.
Southern Italy was populated by a large number of Greek colonies from the 8th century BC onwards – so much so that the Romans referred to the area as Magna Graecia – ‘Great Greece’. These Greek colonies were instrumental in bringing Greek culture and thought to Italy, greatly influencing Roman literature, philosophy, and material culture in turn. The city of Gnathia in southern Apulia, for instance, was famed for its pottery, with production of vases, oinochoe, and other wares beginning around 360 – 370 BC. A polychrome palette would then be used to decorate these ceramics, with the colourful paints being applied directly onto the pot’s black glaze – one of the defining traits of Gnathia-ware pottery. However, the firing stage is a difficult step in the production process, and it seems that the glaze slightly misfired on this example. The result was a rich but chocolate coloured glaze (as well as the slightest lean to one side), which no doubt resulted in the failure of this kantharos to qualify for the final stage of painting. Nevertheless, this only contributes to the uniqueness of this lovely piece.
To discover more about Ancient pottery, please visit our relevant blog post: Collecting Ancient Greek Vases.