Greek South Italian Gnathian Skyphos


A decorated terracotta, Greek skyphos from Southern Italy, the region of Apulia, displaying typical features of Gnathian style. The vessel features a large tapering bowl, which rests on a small concave foot. Covered mostly in a rich, black glaze, the cup is decorated to both sides. To one side is a small decorative scene featuring a woman at a fountain. The added pigment has since been lost, however the outline is clear enough to decipher. She appears mostly as a silhouette, holding across her outstretched arms a piece of cloth. In her right hand she holds a bird, to which her gaze is drawn. She stands beside a deep basin, allowing us to decipher this as a fountain scene. The figures is framed central by a rectangular archway. Geometric, floral patterns decorate the surrounding space. The reverse features the remnants of a hunched figure, depicted with an outlandishly large head. Most likely the painter has exaggerated the features of a dwarf, who are typically depicted with a large, balding head and curling beard. Surrounding him is a thin burgundy archway, with hanging grape and vines filling the surrounding space above and below the roof. Bordering both scenes are two bands of decorative motifs to the rim, including a band of ovolos to both sides. The majority of the cup is decorated except for a small band to the base of the bowl, above the foot, which displays the clay’s natural colour. Two small D-shaped handles have been applied just below the rim, to each side of the bowl.

Date: Circa 4th Century BC
Provenance: Private KF collection, acquired by descent.
Condition: Fine condition, damage to the glaze


The Gnathian style originated from Apulia, a region of Italy located along the southern coast.  It consisted of a polychromic design applied onto a dark, varnished background. The primary colours used were red, white and yellow although white soon became the dominant colour. The skyphos, a typical drinking cup in southern Italy, were used during drinking parties because of its practical shape. According to Plato, drinking parties were a common event which allowed guests to have discussions or articulate riddles. Along with listening to music and feasting, they would later sing many songs of skolia, several consisting of the pleasures of wine. The wine produced was aged in leather and clay containers, the alcohol content would be very high and therefore mixed with water to dilute the substance allowing for a better taste.

To find out more about the different types of Greek vessels please visit our relevant blog post: Types of Ancient Greek Vases.

Weight 184.8 g
Dimensions L 11.7 x W 17.25 x H 12.5 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


You may also like…