From the Greek colonies of Southern Italy, drinking vessels of this type are known as thistle cups (as their shape resembles that of the flower). The cup has a wide round rim, bulbous body, small looped handle to one side of the neck, and stands on a short foot. It is beautifully-adorned in the traditional Gnathian manner, with a variety of polychromatic paints applied directly onto the glazed blackware surface. The upper register is detailed with a white ovolo motif, below which there are further registers of chevron designs. With the black surfaces boasting a thin, silvery iridescence, this is a lovely example of Gnathia-ware pottery.
Date: Circa 4th Century BC Condition: Fine condition; complete; a couple of large fragments repaired on the neck; a couple of associated minor chips to surface.
The vases attributed to the “Gnathia style” are so termed after the site of Gnathia (present-day Egnazia), which is located on the Adriatic coast of Apulia. The decorative technique used for these vases consisted of the application of colours on a coat of black varnish. Scholars believe that its production most likely was centred around Taras, with primary workshops in Egnathia and Canosa. The quantity and quality of Greek colonial Apulian potters increased significantly following the Peloponnesian War, when Attic exports were drastically reduced. Apulian artistry displays the influences of Ionian (Athenian, Attic) conventions, as well as of Doric (western colonial Greek) styles, whilst maintaining a native Italian aesthetic. 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.
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