A large and decorative pair of Grand Tour patinated-bronze effect cast iron tazzas of ancient Greek kylix form, to a design by Edward William Wyon (1811–1885) for the Art Union of London.
Why we like them
We love the grand scale of these vases and the finely executed relief decoration.
The relief decoration is based on the Meidias hydria (circa 420–400BC) from Sir William Hamilton’s collection, now preserved in the British Museum. Its lower tier illustrates the myth of illustrates The Eleventh labour of Hercules in the garden of the Hesperides.
Wyon studied at the Royal Academy schools from 1829, and became a celebrated sculptor, exhibiting at the Royal Academy regularly from 1831 to 1876. Among his commissions were works intended for reproduction by Wedgwood as well as numerous portrait busts.
The primary use for the kylix was drinking wine at a symposium in the ancient world, so they are often decorated with scenes of a humorous, light-hearted, or sexual nature that would only become visible when the cup was drained. Dionysos, the god of wine, and his satyrs were common subjects. The shape of the kylix enabled the drinker to drink whilst recumbent, as was the case in the symposia.
Hercules and the Hesperides
The establishment of a fixed cycle of twelve labours was attributed by the Greeks to an epic poem, now lost, written by Peisander, dated about 600 BC. The eleventh task was to steal the golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides. The Garden of the Hesperides is Hera’s orchard in the west, where either a single apple tree or a grove grows, producing golden apples. According to the legend, when the marriage of Zeus and Hera took place, the different deities came with nuptial presents for the latter, and among them the goddess Gaia, with branches having golden apples growing on them as a wedding gift. The Hesperides, the nymphs of evening and golden light of sunsets, who were the “Daughters of the Evening” or “Nymphs of the West”, were given the task of tending to the grove, while a hundred-headed dragon Ladon was safeguarding it. Heracles succeeded in obtaining the apples, Athena later returned the apples to their rightful place in the garden. They are considered by some to be the same “apples of joy” that tempted Atalanta. On Attic pottery, Heracles is depicted sitting in bliss in the Gardens of the Hesperides, attended by the maidens.