Ancient Greek Black Figure Lekythos with Herakles

GBP 6,950.00

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Object Description

An ancient Greek, Attic terracotta ‘lekythos’ vase with black-figure decoration at its centre. The vessel features an elongated body with broad, flat shoulders. A thin, cylindrical neck rises from the shoulders, ending with a black glazed spout. The shoulders are decorated with a simplified palmette motif. A flattened handle rises from the edge of the vase’s shoulders and curves into the neck just under its black top, glazed black also.

To the top of the body is a band of geometric patterns, which frames the scene below. Four figures are depicted, filling the width of the vessel’s body. The central figure is the Greek hero Herakles, recognisable from the signature lion-skin he wears and the array of weapons, including his infamous club and a bow, he holds. He is depicted walking right, however his head faces left, looking back at two figures, both wearing armour. One is mounting a chariot, driven by four horses, which is likely to be the Greek goddess Athena, and the other is standing behind, holding a spear, thought to be Iolaus. The fourth figure appears to be an older man, standing in front of the chariot’s horses. This figure is most likely Hermes, based on his dress. He is depicted wearing the petasus, a shot hat, and winged sandals. Based on similar decorative scenes, this narrative could portray Herakles journey to Olympus. In such scenes he is often accompanied by the gods Athena and Hermes. The rest of the vessel is decorated with larger bands of thick black glossy glaze, terminating at the small stepped foot. Additional detailing has been applied to the decorative scene in rich burgundy and white pigments.

Object History

Heracles (Ἡρακλῆς) was the greatest divine hero in Ancient Greek mythology, born from the union between Zeus and the mortal Alcmene. He was later assimilated in the Ancient Roman pantheon as Hercules, with whom Roman emperors, in particular Commodus and Maximian, often identified themselves. He features in several mythological episodes, the most famous being the Twelve Labours of Herakles. According to the myth, the hero married Megara, daughter of the king of Thebes Creon, after emerging victorious in the war against the Boeotian kingdom of Orchomenus. However, in a fit of madness sent by Hera, he killed his wife and children and, consequently, was obliged to become the servant of Eurystheus. The king of Tiryns imposed a cycle of twelve labours upon Herakles, which included the slaying of the Namean lion, the slaying of the nine-headed Hydra of Lerna, and the fetching up of three-headed dog Cerberus from the underworld.

‘Black figure pottery’ is a type of ancient Greek ceramic art which originated in Corinth around c.700 BC and became a very popular art-style in Attic pottery. It is called ‘black figure’ because artists used black pigment to portray the designs, with male figures being typically shown with black skin and female figures with white. Lekythoi vessels traditionally contained oil which was used within religious, typically funerary, rituals.

Object Condition

Excellent. Clear profile and characters. Some signs of wear to the black glaze. Professionally restored handle and general repair to the whole vessel.

Object Details

Dealer Opening Times

By appointment only.

Dealer Contact

+44 (0)208 364 4565
+44 (0)7833231322

Dealer Location

The Gallery
Trent Park Equestrian Centre
Eastpole Farm House, Bramley Road
Oakwood, N14 4UW, United Kingdom

St James's Ancient Art
10 Charles II Street, Ground Floor
St James

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