Back to results

Cypriot Amphora with a Geometric Decoration

Download PDF
: Greek-Cypriot
: ca. 650-480 B.C.
: Greek Ceramic
: H: 76.2 cm
: CHF 25'000

Ex-American private collection, New York.


The vase is complete, and although reassembled from a number of large fragments, it is in remarkable condition.


Reference 21008

This amphora, which would served for the storage of liquid (oil and possibly wine) or solid (mostly wheat) food is a beautiful and rare example of the archaic Cypriot style.

Despite the large size and the difficulties it causes for the manufacturing, the amphora keeps an elongated shape and elegant proportions: the body, supported by a small circular foot, is an oval with a small rounded shoulder; the high cylindrical neck is provided with a wide flat lip; the semi-circular handles are attached to the center of the body.

The thick, regular lines in slight relief, which are clearly visible inside the vase, demonstrate the workmanship and technical skill of the artist: using an ancient method already attested all throughout the Near East, especially for the manufacture of large containers, the body was made by overlapping clay circles, before being completed and equalized through a rotating process.

The decoration was painted in dark brown/black, partially faded now, on the beige-colored background of the terracotta: the polychromy of the vase was finally achieved by the use of a red/purple paint for the decoration of the neck. This painting technique is called bichrome IV by archaeologists: already documented in the Bronze Age and in the early 1st millennium, it was also largely in use during the archaic Cypriot, when it characterized most painted ceramics from Cyprus, especially the ones which were produced in the eastern part of the island. The motifs are only of geometric and linear type ; horizontal lines punctuate the surface of the body in areas of different sizes; geometric shapes (triangles, half circles, lozenges, checkerboard) adorn the two main areas in the center of the shoulder and the frieze of the neck, while a thick red band marks the transition to the lip.


Karaghe orghis, V., Ancient Art from Cyprus, The Cesnola Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2000, pp. 90-91, n. 144.
Karaghe orghis, V., and al., Cypriote Antiquities in the Royal Ontario Museum, Nicosie, 2003, pp. 37ss., n. 59.
Spiteris, T., The Art of Cyprus, New York, 1970, pp. 102-103 and p. 156.
Yon, M., Manuel de céramique chypriote, I, Problèmes historiques, Vocabulaire, Méthode, Lyon, 1976, pp. 59-64.

Related works of art

Attic black-figure lip cup with donkey & maenad attibuted to the Tleson painter An Apulian Fish Plate (the Sansone Painter) Greek Red-Figure Miniature Chous Cypriot Amphora with a Geometric Decoration Greek Black Figure Amphora with Ulysses and Diomedes Greek black figure Lekythos with Dionysiac Scenes Hellenistic Magenta Ceramic Vase representing an Actor on an Altar