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Greek-Archaic Black Figure Amphora

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: Greek-Archaic
: Greek Archaic (East Greek), second half of the 6th Century B.C.
: Greek Ceramic
: Height: 37 cm

Ex-Lord and Lady Plowden Collection, acquired prior to 1944.


This amphora is intact; in places, the paint was lightly restored.


Reference 18953

The body is in the shape of a teardrop with a small molding at the base of the neck and a rounded lip; the handles are thick and ribbed; the foot, modeled separately and attached after the throwing, has a straight angular edge.

Two does with spotted coats are painted onto the shoulders of the vase in the black figure technique: one is simply in the middle of grazing while the other is represented in a surprising, but very naturalistic, gesture, scratching her head with a hind leg while remaining perfectly balanced. The proportions of the animals are very elegant, with long delicate legs, long neck and slender, svelte body; some incisions highlight certain anatomical details of the head, the musculature and the hide. Precise observation of movement and the realism of the posture are typical elements of East Greek art: in addition to the gesture of the doe pawing at her forehead with a hoof, one will also note the detail of the alert ears, portraying the constant vigilance of these animals, who are ready at all times, as if the painter wanted to emphasize that swift escape is the principal mode of defense against attacks from predators. There are also some electrum staters (coins) from Ionia with very similar motifs of does. Even if the style here is very close to that of figures painted on Attic black figure vases, the subject does appear on East Greek ceramics (second half of the 7th century).

The rest of the decoration is simple and linear: a banded body – the top line represents the ground on which we find the does – and zones that are completely painted (foot, lip, interior of the neck, handles). This very rare amphora is from the Ionian school of ceramics, the most well known form of which is the kylix, but which also includes, in addition to amphorae, perfume vases like lydia and alabastra; their decoration is nearly always limited to lines and/or horizontal bands often grouped near the point of maximum diameter of the piece. The term “Ionian”designates an important class of vases largely from the Archaic Period from throughout the Greek world (eastern Greece; continental Greece, especially Attica; western colonies): the origin of these products, which generally come from the coasts of Asia Minor but were imitated in different colonial centers, has not been clearly established, even if archaeologists often think of Samian or Rhodian workshops.

The“Ionian”amphorae existed in different shapes and sizes that can essentially be classified into two variants: one very pot-bellied and tall and the other, to which this piece belongs, very elongated and curvy but often of smaller size. The presence of figural motifs is exceptional on this class of vessels, even if East Greek ceramics were traditionally rich in animals motifs that then influenced other regions of the Hellenistic world. The two does painted here certainly maintain a distant resemblance to the famous “Wild Goat Style”, adopted by the workshops of numerous Greek cities on the Anatolian coast and the neighboring islands at the end of the 7th century B.C.



COOK R.M. – DUPONT P., East Greek Pottery, London, 1998, pp. 132-134

For the shape, see:

Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum München 6, 1968, pp. 49-50, pl. 304.

For the decoration, see:

Das Tier in der Antike, 400 Werke ägyptischer, griechischer, etruskischer und römischer Kunst aus privatem und öffentlichem Besitz, Zürich, 1974, pl. 40, n. 238 (Attic cup).

THIMME J., Antike Meisterwerke im Karlsruher Schloss, Karslruhe, 1986, pp. 89-91.

WALTER-KARYDI E., Samische Gefässe des 6. Jahrhunderts v. Chr., Landschaftsstile ostgriechischer Gefässe, Bonn, 1973, p. 79 and 144, pl. 113.

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